Friday, June 1, 2012

OFC Article About the Ohio Youth Advisory Board

OHIO Youth Advocacy Board

The OHIO - Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio - Youth Advocacy Board (OYAB) is a statewide organization of youth ages 14 to 24 who have lived in a foster care setting. The organization has been operating since July 2006 with a mission to be the knowledgeable, statewide voice influencing policies that affect all youth who have experienced or will experience out-of-home care.  Youth in foster care and their adult supporters are invited to attend quarterly OYAB meetings, which take place concurrently with meetings of the Ohio Independent Living Association.
OYAB meetings continue to grow in numbers and enthusiasm as awareness of the positive benefits of county-based youth advisory boards spreads across Ohio. These boards give current and former foster youth an opportunity to develop supportive and meaningful peer relationships, to learn first-hand the value of giving back to their communities, and to develop as leaders and productive adults.

Ohio now has 12 county youth advisory boards, in Allen, Athens, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Stark and Summit counties.
OYAB has focused on six areas of need: (1) Advocacy, (2) Court proceedings, (3) Education, (4) Finance, (5) Housing and (6) Workforce.
At the January 2012 OYAB meeting, members brainstormed action steps in each of these areas. Attendees at the January OYAB Officers’ Retreat transformed these action steps into a tactical plan of prioritized strategies. They presented their top priorities as a list of “Top Five Asks” of ODJFS Director Michael Colbert, who was able to agree to them. The result will be:
  • A conference for youth in foster care
  • Two new regional aftercare coordinators, to promote and support independent living and transitional services for youth in their designated regions
  • A Transitional Youth Housing Task Force, to study the problem of housing for youth aging out of foster care 
  • ODJFS support for an OYAB website
  • Continuing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Independent Living Allocation
Look for these things to begin happening in the coming year.
There is much to be learned from Ohio’s current and former foster youth, and we should seek ways to include them in our work. They come prepared, researched and ready to realign your perspective, so be ready for a rewarding experience.

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