Saturday, July 7, 2018

Pathways conference and OHIO YAB workshop

Event: Fostering Pathways to Success Conference
Date: Monday, August 6, 2018
Location: Columbus Convention Center, 400 N High St, Columbus, OH 43215
Theme of this year’s conference: Reach for the Stars
OHIO YAB Workshop: "Youth Voice Matters: Increase the Positive People in Your Orbit"

This workshop will be comprised of station activities.

1.) Youth will receive shirts. The front of the shirt will say: “I am” And the back of their shirt will say: “I can make a difference.” They will use permanent markers to write down their strengths, such as: “I am… articulate. I am… a leader. I am… resilient” Their friends and other youth can be invited to write things as well. This hands-on leadership activity will strengthen youth self-confidence.

2.) Hands-on activities from the OHIO Youth Advisory Board Toolkit:
a.) Conflicts and Resolutions activity with buzzers (to build diplomacy skills)
b.) Communication exercise with puzzle pieces (to build communication skills)
c.) Networking activity with icebreaker balls (hands-on social networking)
d.) When Helping You is Hurting Me activity with paper boats and marbles (which explains how important it is to keep your boat afloat and not risk sinking by trying to rescue other people. This is a common challenge for many of our young people who “age out” of foster care)

Workshop Outcomes:
1.) Participants will build interpersonal skills and participate in hands-on, interactive social networking experiences
2.) Participants will gain self-confidence, and leave with a tangible example of their personal strengths (literally written on a shirt that they can keep as a momento)
3.) Participants will learn more about youth advisory boards, and how they can help build leadership skills and a sense of belonging

Sunday, June 24, 2018

2018 June OHIO YAB Officers Retreat

  • Media Spokesperson Christian Warren, Greene County
  • Parliamentarian Von’Celis Leonard, Montgomery County 
  • Treasurer Roman Sandhu, Allen County 
  • Secretary Evelynn Self, Lucas/Sandusky
  • Justiynn Stoneknight, Hamilton County (Vice President runner-up)
  • D’Marco Shaw, Montgomery County (Media Spokesperson runner-up)
  • Stevie Hayslip, Franklin County(Parliamentarian runner-up)
  • Matthew Williamson, Hamilton County (Parliamentarian runner-up)
  • Sue Eledkawi, Montgomery County (Officer-in-Training)
  • Sydney Dykes, Montgomery County (Guest speaker regarding Three Days on the Hill)
  • Torrie Easter, Montgomery County (Guest speaker regarding Three Days on the Hill)

Link to more photos.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018 April OHIO Youth Advisory Board Elections

Congratulations, elected 2018 OHIO YAB Officers:
  • President Elect Jewel Harris, Allen County
  • Vice President Elect Sam Dillon, Athens County
  • Media Spokesperson Elect Christian Warren, Greene County
  • Parliamentarian Elect Von’Celis Leonard, Montgomery County 
  • Treasurer Elect Roman Sandhu, Allen County 
  • Secretary Elect Evelynn Self, Lucas/Sandusky

Our new Officers-in-Training include:
  1. Patricia Mazey, Stark County (President runner-up)
  2. Justiynn Stoneknight, Hamilton County (Vice President runner-up)
  3. D’Marco Shaw, Montgomery County (Media Spokesperson runner-up)
  4. For the Parliamentarian postion, we had three runners-up who tied (Terrianna Rapp of Franklin County, Matthew Williamson of Hamilton County, Stevie Hayslip of Greene County)
  5. Rebekah Milnes, Stark County (Treasurer runner-up)

Link to more pictures.

Monday, April 16, 2018

OHIO YAB Video Shoot

Jewel Harris did a wonderful job.

Link to more photos.

Kyajah Rodriguez's federal testimony on the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act

Link to more photos

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

United States House of Representatives
House Committee on Financial Services
Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance

Proponent testimony on the Amended Version of H.R. 2069, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act

Chairman Duffy, Vice Chairman Ross, Ranking Member Cleaver, and members of the committee,

Thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony on the amended version of H.R. 2069, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act.

My name is Ky Rodriguez, I was put in the foster care system the summer just before my freshman year of high school. I am now a senior at Fort Hayes High School where I am President of the Student Activities Council, Treasurer of the Senior Class Council, member of the National Honors Society, Leader of our Mock Trial team, and an author published by The Ohio State University.

Throughout my trying experience in foster care, I’ve eagerly taken advantage of every opportunity that crossed my path. However, as I near graduation, all my years of hard work are at a terrifying risk of going to waste because of my vulnerability to homelessness.

When underprivileged youth are orphaned by circumstances out of their control, the foster care system steps in and fills that parental absence. The system becomes our caretaker, provider, and the closest thing to a parent many of us have ever known.

However, unlike other children whose parental system allows them a gradual, guided, and forgiving
transition into adulthood; we are cut off at the unripe age of 18 and forced to make an abrupt transition into adulthood as vulnerable and unequipped youth. Our success is unlikely, and our alternatives are dangerous.

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act would correct this and provide children with
a safety net we desperately need by preventing the years of homelessness that come as package deal with the federal housing assistance waitlist. This would dramatically shrink the homeless population as whole because we make up such a large portion of it. By prioritizing us before we become homeless, you’d turn off the faucet before drawing water from the bottom of an overflowing bucket.

This bill is one way of supporting orphaned youth in our transition into adulthood just how a parent would their own child. It is responsible federal parenting. Sure, it won’t prevent every child exiting foster care from becoming homeless but it’s practical under our circumstances. Homelessness and the horrors that come with it are an imminent danger and this bill is what we can​ do right now to stop it.

Please support us in our strive to disrupt a cycle that leaves kids exiting foster care underserved, undersupported, and eventually homeless.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Siblings 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

The OHIO Youth Advisory Board had the honor of presenting 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)