Monday, June 20, 2011
To the Ohio Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee,
We are writing to express concerns regarding Foster Youth Community Notification Provisions that have been added to House Bill 86.
The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB) is a statewide organization of young people (ages 14-24) who have experienced foster care. We exist to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that effect all youth who have or will experience out of home care. Our members and our officers represent every region in Ohio.
We strongly oppose this provision, which requires community notification when an exceptional needs foster youth moves into the neighborhood. Notifications would be sent to school superintendents, the County sheriff and the Chief of Police – as if the youth were an adult sexual offender or a hardened criminal.
One of the primary concerns of Ohio foster youth is normalcy. We believe that this provision is stigmatizing and discriminatory. Community notices would include the child’s name, age and address. It would state that the home is a treatment foster home.
Ohio foster care youth have value and potential. We cannot help where we came from, but we can help where we are going. This provision will violate our privacy and label us as a risk to the community.
Many of the strongest youth voices in Ohio would once have been considered in the “exceptional needs” category. Where are we today? Serving our country through military service. Enrolled in the police academy. Studying for a future law degree. Serving as teachers and librarians. Recently licensed as a social worker.
As one of our members stated, “I did not choose to be born to an addicted parent. I did not choose to be abused. I did not choose to be removed from my home. But I can and I will choose to grow up to be a productive citizen.”
If this provision is not removed, Ohio foster youth will be stigmatized, their potential will be overshadowed by childhood abuse or neglect, and their right to confidentiality will be ignored. Their past will dictate their futures because people will judge them without the facts and without getting to know the youth first. There will be no benefit to the community, in spite of the harm done to young people.
We urge you to remove provisions slipped into HB 86 that would require notification when a foster child moves into the neighborhood.
Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, President, Lorain County
Rich Haag, Vice-President, Stark County
Traci Justice, Treasurer, Athens County
Chelsie Akers, Secretary, Miami County
Dauntea Sledge, Media Spokesperson, Franklin County
Roneishia Finney, Parliamentarian, Montgomery County