Monday, September 3, 2018

Press Release: OHIO Youth Advisory Board Receives National Recognition

Ohio’s Statewide Voice of Foster Youth Receives National Recognition

The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board is a statewide organization of young people (aged 14-24) who have experienced foster care. Established in 2006, 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. OHIO YAB members shared their “lived experience” in foster care, in order to improve outcomes for the next generation.

The OHIO YAB is incredibly honored to have been nominated by Senator Rob Portman as an Angels in Adoption® 2018 Honoree. The Angels in Adoption® Program is the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s signature public awareness program to honor the work of adoption and foster care advocates. This program has existed for 20 years. Over 100 Members of Congress participate, making it the year’s single most significant Congressional event pertaining to child welfare in the United States.

OHIO YAB Treasurer Roman Sandhu will travel to DC in late September to represent the Board and accept a celebratory pin from the United States Senate on the Board's behalf. He will be accompanied by two fellow foster youth advocates Kyajah Rodriguez and Sydney Dykes. The trip includes an Advocacy Fair, a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building, a Legislative Seminar led by Congress, a Hill Day facilitated by CCAI, and an Angels in Adoption Reception and Gala.

During their time in DC, the three young leaders will also organize their own series of legislative visits to encourage federal policymakers to provide housing opportunities for former foster youth between ages 18-25 throughout the nation. For the past six years, OHIO YAB members have fundraised locally and traveled to DC on an annual basis, to ensure youth voice in public policy. Ohio foster care youth have made federal recommendations, helped write federal policy, met with HUD headquarters, and worked on a national level to end the Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline.

The voices of Ohio foster care youth have led to statewide extension of foster care supports until age 21, the re-establishment of a local pool of independent living funds, and the overthrowing of a proposed ‘Neighborhood Notification Act’ that would have treated foster youth as if they were criminals. The OHIO YAB continues to frequent the Ohio Statehouse on a regular basis; to advocate for sibling connections, to empower Ohio police as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect, and to share the need for a statewide Foster Care Ombudsman.

To learn more about the OHIO Youth Advisory Board, please visit their website at


Lisa Dickson
Communications Chair
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now

OHIO YAB Officer Updates

The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) has been nominated by Senator Rob Portman as a 2018 CCAI Angels in Adoption® Honoree.

OHIO YAB Treasurer Roman Sandhu will travel to DC in late September to represent the Board and accept a celebratory pin from the United States Senate on the Board's behalf.

OHIO YAB Parliamentarian Stevie Hayslip has been nominated to participate in a Listening Session that brings together young people, supportive adults, and federal policymakers on October 28-29, 2018 to better understand how youth make decisions in their daily lives.

This event will be co-facilitated by the federal Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, the Office of Population Affairs, and the American Institutes for Research, and will include icebreakers, small and large group discussions, and idea presentations by participants. We haven't heard back yet, but are very hopeful that Stevie will be chosen.

In the meantime, our tireless Vice President, Samantha Dillon, continues to work tirelessly behind the scenes to support statewide initiatives, including sibling visitation and the ongoing development of the Bridges program.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Appreciation for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is a long-time champion of Ohio foster care youth and alumni.

We greatly appreciate him including us in his 2012 Child Safety Summits, and 2013 Two Days in May. He included youth voice in every Child Safety Summit, and empowered youth as Subject Matter Experts during the 2013 Two Days in May conference.

Many thanks also to the Ohio Attorney General's Office for providing grant funding to support Ohio Reach - this initiative has improved higher educational outcomes for foster care youth throughout the state.

We read with interest that the Ohio Attorney General's policy priorities in 2018 include:

1.) Reviewing Ohio's foster care system and increasing funding to create a "standard minimum care"
2.) Appointing a foster care ombudsman to investigate and publish findings on the foster system
3.) Creating a Director of Child Initiatives to coordinate child programs statewide.

During our recent OHIO YAB Officers Retreat, on June 23, 2018, participating youth also proposed the establishment of a Foster Care Ombudsman's Office in the state of Ohio in order to provide independent investigation of concerns expressed by Ohio foster care youth and young adults.

This person’s role would be:

  • To serve as a protective measure to safeguard the physical safety and emotional well-being of youth whose lives are entrusted to the foster care system
  • To be available for foster care children and teens throughout the state to share concerns related to their rights, care and well-being and/or issues with their placement or services received while in foster care
  • To listen to, document, and follow up on their concerns 
  • To ensure that foster youth are being protected from further harm and receiving the services they need
  • To provide a venue so that the voices of foster care youth and teens are heard, without fear of retribution. 

Quote from youth: “Don’t let referral lead to retaliation”

Youth felt that this future Ombudsman definitely needs to be available to young people in group homes and residential placements, as well as foster homes. Oftentimes, youth in group homes or residential aren’t believed, and their concerns are disregarded.

Quote from youth: “The danger of some group homes and residential placements is that things happen behind walls, and other people don’t know what’s really going on.”

In terms of defining ‘What is abuse?’
Youth felt that a good rule of thumb is that: “If a caseworker would open a case against my biological parents for this allegation, then if it happens in a kinship care placement, guardianship, foster home, group home or residential placement, it should also be thoroughly investigated.”

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.