Link to more photos.
Samantha Dillon, Kyajah Rodriguez and Jonathan Thomas served on the Plenary Youth Panel for the 2019 Ohio Family Care Association (OFCA) Conference.
Insights they shared included the following...
- The need for teachers to be trauma-informed and foster-informed
- Untapped opportunities for foster youth attending the same high school to be connected with one another for study groups and peer support.
- The risk of lost credits.
- The vital importance of connecting with a supportive teacher.
- Reminder about Ohio Reach.
- We need more foster parents for teens; especially with the opioid epidemic going on. Please give teenagers a chance. We need parental figures in our lives who will help us heal from previous trauma and demonstrate that we are worthy of love.
- Don't judge a kid by their case file; start with trust until trust is take away.
- Be aware of the importance of cultural competency, and also keep an eye on inter-personal dynamics within a home (i.e. foster youth feeling less worthy than bio children)
- Recognize the importance of your role. You are a powerful advocate and a vital part of the decision-making team for the child or teen in your home. Make sure the young person is included in that team, too.
- Take time for self-care. Don't take things personally -- recognize that youth behavior often comes from trauma.
- Please don't view me as a"case," but rather a child or teen who needs emotional nurturing. I'm not an adult "client;" please take time to connect me with coaching, guidance, and mentorship.
- When asking questions about my past, please remember that this can trigger emotions (including pain and guilt) and feel like an interrogation.
- Acknowledge the power dynamic -- you have so much power over my life. Please do your part to listen to me, and be patient if I change my mind.
- Learn about de-escalation, and please don't take quips or jokes that kids might take personally. Don't assume their behavior comes from a place of disrespect.
- Caseworkers do so much, and can experience "compassion fatigue." Please take time to refresh and renew, because today's young people need you at your best.
Respite, Kinship, and Host Homes:
- Respite care placements can be scary and unfamiliar, with complicated relationship dynamics going on. Whether a child or teen is staying with you for a week, a day, or even just a couple of hours, view your role as writing in permanent marker on that young person's heart about their strengths, resiliency and worth.
- Kinship care providers need the same level of training and support as foster parents.
- Ohio needs more people who are willing to step up and open their homes to be "host homes" for young people ages 18-21 who are in the Bridges program. Not every young person is ready to have their own apartment; some of us have moved around so much that we need more time in a stable family situation. The role of the host home provider is to guide young adults, allow them normalcy, give them latitude to make some mistakes and learn from them, and prepare them for living on their own by age 22.