Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter 2010 Ohio YAB Update

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America is privileged to serve, side-by-side with Doris Edelmann of Montgomery County Children Services, as primary adult facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio statewide foster care youth advisory board.

Recent Ohio YAB Events
July 28, Foster Care Panel for Capital Law School
Aug. 4, Adoptee Panel for Capital Law School
Aug 31, Lorain County YAB Training
Sept. 10, Workshop for NILA Conference
Sept. 24, Judicial Teleconference on Youth Voice in Court
Oct. 2, 2010 CASA Conference Youth Panel
Dec. 6, Disproportionality Symposium

2011 Ohio YAB Officers
President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, Lorain
Media Spokesperson Dauntea Sledge, Franklin
Treasurer Traci Justice, Athens
Secretary Cheslie Akers, Miami
Parliamentarian Roneshia Finney, Montgomery
*Elections for Vice President will be held in January.

2011 Ohio YAB Meeting Dates
Jan. 20 at Lifeway for Youth, 3800 Lacon Drive
April 21 at ODJFS Air Center, 4020 E. Fifth Ave.
July 21, location TBA
Oct. 20, at ODJFS Air Center, 4020 E. Fifth Ave.

Ohio YAB Officers Retreat
Many thanks to the Dave Thomas Foundation for sponsoring the 2011 Ohio YAB Officers Retreat and the cost of food and beverages for youth during Ohio YAB Quarterly Meetings.

Spotlight on Ohio Youth: Antonio Frierson

From the time that I have met Antonio (“Tone”) Frierson, I have found him to be steadfast, reliable and sincere. Tone is dedicated to the people he loves and the causes to which he has dedicated his heart. His deepest desire is to increase the amount of resources available for the Ohio’s 1,300 youth who “age out” of foster care each year.

I first met Antonio in 2008, at a teen event in Cleveland for teens in foster care. He and his fellow members of TAGyc, Cuyahoga County Children Services teen advisory group/youth council, were presenting an Orientation to Emancipation. One of the first things I noticed was the passion, energy and creativity of the activities, and Tone’s infectious sense of humor.

Our paths continued to cross during Teen Fairs for foster youth, annual FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving dinners for young people in and from foster care, and statewide Independent Living Summits. I watched Tone reaching out to younger foster care youth, and encouraging them to make good choices. I witnessed him advocating for better resources for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood, particularly regarding housing.

As I grew to know Antonio better, I saw glimpses of his serious side. I heard him speak from the heart at events for foster youth. I saw his desire to constantly grow and learn new things. I witnessed his heartfelt appreciation and acknowledgement of every person who built into his life, including and especially Cuyahoga County caseworker, Seanine Cook.

This fall, as I listened to Antonio participate on a radio interview by Public News Service, I continued to be impressed by his positive attitude and vision for the future. Having benefitted from Seanine Cook’s role as a mentor in his life, Tone now wants to be a role model to foster youth, and to increase the circle of support available in each youth’s life.

I believe that Tone has the capacity to ignite a spark of passion and energy in every person he touches.

(But I'm still not sure why Tone looks like he is in heaven in this picture :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arlene Jones Graduates from Wright State University

Arlene Jones with her husband Shawn Sr. and  three sons, Manny, Shawn Jr. and Nicholas

Arlene Samuel Jones:
  • served as Media Spokesperson during the first year of the Ohio YAB's existence
  • served as PCSAO Foster Youth Adviser for the Ohio YAB for two years
  • is a great mom, and an all-around lovable person!!
  • graduated from Wright State University with her Sociology degree on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010.
Congratulations, Arlene!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Laquita Howell participates in 50 States in 50 Days

The Ohio stop on Kevin Montgomery's 50 States in 50 Days tour, benefitting the Orange Duffel Bag Foundation to support teens aging out of foster care and homeless teens, featured Laquita Howell of Hamilton County:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Outcome of Ohio YAB Officer Elections

 Madame President

Congratulations to 2011 Ohio YAB Officers:
  • President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, Lorain County
  • Vice President*
  • Media Spokesperson Dauntea Sledge, Franklin County
  • Treasurer Traci Justice, Athens County
  • Secretary Cheslie Akers, Miami County
  • Parliamentarian Roneshia Finney, Montgomery County
*Vacant: Elections for this position will be held in January.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Seanine Cook, Cuyahoga County Youth Advisory Board: TAGyc

Seanine Cook, an Independent Living caseworker with Cuyahoga County Child and Family Services, was recently awarded 2010 Ohio Child Protection Worker of the Year by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

Seanine Cook was also recently awarded the Channel 3 News Today Gold Star:

Along with two Cuyahoga County foster care alumni, Tone Frierson and Romero Smith, Seanine recently participated in the following radio interview:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2010 CASA Conference

General Session: Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board Panel Discussion
The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board, created in 2006 by youth for youth, advocates for youth who have experienced out-of-home care.

The Ohio YAB’s recommendations include:
  • Considerations for the courts and CASA/GALs
  • Developing independent living skills, addressing mental health issues of youth in foster care
  • Communication issues between caseworkers, foster parents and parents
  • Sibling concerns
  • Maintaining normalcy while in foster care
This panel of exceptional young adults spoke to the issues that are the greatest concern for youth in foster care, sharing their experiences, strength and hope for the future.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2010 Judicial Teleconference on Youth Voice in Court


  • Introduction of Topic and Panel Members 
  • Magistrate shared the history of youth involvement in court and how this plays out in practice
  • Youth Panel
  • Questions from the audience

Youth Panel Questions

  1. Please tell us a little bit about your experience in foster care… 
  2. Were you able to attend one/more court hearings?   If so was it helpful?  Were you prepared ahead of time?
  3. If not, what was it like not knowing what goes on in court?  What information about your case did you want the judge/magistrate to know?
  4. How is hearing from youth in person different from hearing from their CASA or caseworker?
  5. What would you tell a judge or magistrate that was on the fence about including youth in hearings?

Additional Questions:

a.) Are all hearings equal, or are some hearings more important than others? (i.e. placement decision/change in case/general review with no change)

b.) Should they make exceptions based upon:

  • The child’s age?
  • What a young person wants?
  • If they think the child/teen isn’t emotionally ready?
  • If the logistics are inconvenient? (long drive for adult/long wait for child)
  • Whether or not the court is kid-friendly? (or teen-friendly)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Superintendent Delisle quotes Alex McFarland

The Office for Exceptional Children held their annual Special Education Leadership Conference yesterday afternoon and Superintendent Deborah Delisle provided the keynote address.

In her closing, she mentioned that she had come from a meeting with the OFCF Cabinet Council, where she heard from an amazing youth who had previously been in foster care. She proceeded to share Alex McFarland’s story as an example of the difference that one teacher can make in the life of a child, especially one that others may have overlooked or given up on.

Kara Waldron of the Office for Exceptional Children relates:

"Alex’s story was truly an inspiration to our crowd of more than 1,700. We are grateful for the work that he continues to do on behalf of Ohio’s youth. Without Alex McFarland, Adrian McLemore, and their counterparts, we might forget the meaning behind our efforts."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Future of Youth Advisory Boards for Foster Youth in Ohio


• YAB funding from ODJFS
• Upcoming Ohio/County Youth Advisory Board Membership Drive
Lunchtime with Lisa: Resource for YAB Adult Supporters
NEW website: to support the preparation and retention of future Ohio YAB officers


2010 Ohio Foster Club All-Star: Jeremie Austin-Brown, Stark County
2010 Foster Club Outstanding Young Leaders: Rico Rushin and Alex McFarland
2010 Ohio Reach Summit: Laquita Howell, Hamilton County
Dayton Daily News: Uncle takes on role of dad to keep family together

Now, more than ever, with tight budgets and limited resources, Ohio's emancipating foster care youth NEED support, empowerment and preparation!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Upcoming Opportunities for Youth Involvement

July 28, Foster care panel for Capital Law School ICWI in Columbus
Aug. 4, Adoptee panel for Capital Law School ICWI in Columbus

Aug. 11, Southwest Independent Living Summit in Cincinnati
Sept. 24, Judicial College video teleconference in Columbus
Oct. 2, Youth Panel at Ohio CASA conference in Columbus
Oct. 29, Northeast Independent Living Summit in Canton

Ready to Launch: Ohio Gubernatorial Campaigns
State budget: Promote use of WIA and ODE funds for transitional foster youth
OACCA compilation of potential ODJFS budget areas that might be at-risk
OCOG funds (Demos/Policy Matters Ohio)

• This budget committee is tasked with understanding the magnitude of the budget deficit and to discuss general strategies.
• Some of the committee members will be on the House and Senate budget committee in 2011.
• It’s important that committee members are informed about the importance of funding for foster youth.
• Foster care youth and alumni will need to arrange meetings with individual committee members.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Adrian!

Uncle takes on role of dad to keep family together
Wynn, Kelli. Dayton Daily News, June 19, 2010.

Adrian McLemore with his niece and nephew Arayiah McLemore, 3 and Tyiaun Jones, 1, play guitar and sing to Tina Turner in their home in Trotwood. McLemore grew up in Montgomery County’s foster care system. In order to prevent his niece and nephew from becoming wards of the county due to a family crisis, McLemore took custody of the children.

TROTWOOD — In December 2009, Montgomery County officials gave Adrian McLemore two options: Take custody of his sister’s two children or let them enter the foster care system until their mother’s life improved.

McLemore knew that one day he might be faced with this decision given his sister’s background, but hoped this day would not come. The Trotwood resident loves his family and considers himself a brother and uncle who would always come to his family’s rescue in a time of need. But being a full-time surrogate father was not a part of his original life plan. Like his mentors said, this would be a great responsibility for a 23-year-old bachelor enrolled in college and managing a video store.

The decision to take custody of 3-year-old Arayiah and 1-year-old Tyiaun was not about what would interrupt McLemore’s life, but rather stopping the beginning of a family trend. “I refuse to let a second generation of the McLemores be in foster care,” he said.

McLemore, now 24, and his two sisters spent most of their childhood in foster care. They entered the system in Georgia as their mother battled alcoholism. The siblings ended up in Georgia after their mother moved them there from Florida following a divorce from their father in 1992.

The McLemore siblings would not be reunited with their father until 1995. Adrian McLemore was about to be put up for adoption when Ernest McLemore, who was serving in the U.S. Air Force, obtained custody and moved his children to Las Vegas. They lived with their father for two years before he announced that he had received an assignment overseas and gave them the option of moving to Ohio to live with their mother again. The children moved back with their mother, a decision that has Adrian and his older sister Britney McLemore, 24, asking themselves today, “what if?”

All three siblings were in and out of Daybreak, an emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youths, from 1999 to 2000.

At one point, Adrian McLemore did not want to return home, so shelter officials called Montgomery County Children Services, who placed him and his sisters in foster care. Britney and Adrian aged out of the system at age 18, and their younger sister, Devanna, was placed in Britney’s custody once Britney turned 21. At the time, Devanna was pregnant with Arayiah, who would have also become a ward of the county had Devanna remained in foster care.

Meanwhile, Ernest McLemore died in 2004 in Georgia at age 40 after suffering from brain cancer. His children were still in foster care.

Even though his time with his children was short, Ernest McLemore was a big influence. Adrian hopes that all the positive things that he learned from his father will help him while his niece and nephew are in his custody.

One of the messages that McLemore said he hopes his actions will send to Arayiah and Tyiaun is that “a man loves his child no matter what” and provides emotional and financial support for his family.

“I am convinced that I made the right decision based on where they are now — as far as development — compared to where they were the day I picked them up,” he said.

“I love them to death. I want to show them that I am here to play, to hug or discipline... Just to be there.”

Although McLemore’s experience in foster care has been mostly positive, he still said he feels “foster care is no system for children.”

He also didn’t like the idea of his niece and nephew potentially being placed in separate foster homes without a familiar face.

“Having a second generation of our family in foster care is unthinkable to me and I wouldn’t allow it,” he said.

Devanna McLemore, 21, was the one who suggested to county officials in 2009 that her brother take custody of her children. She currently has weekly visits with them and her next custody hearing is scheduled for January.

This year, Father’s Day takes on a whole different meaning to Adrian McLemore. He believes his father would be proud of the decision he made. “I could have continued to do what I wanted to do. But instead, I now do what I have to do.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

Athens County Foster Care Walk

Hooray for more A.C.T.I.O.N. in Athens!   They just had their Second Annual Foster Care Walk...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alex McFarland named 2010 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader

Alexander McFarland has served as President of Ohio's statewide foster care youth advocacy board (Ohio YAB) for two years. When the Ohio YAB lost its funding and supportive staff, Alex immediately began advocating for alternative funds, and succeeded in attaining a grant for 25K that will support the continued existence of not only the statewide board, but county and regional foster youth advisory boards as well. He has traveled throughout the state of Ohio to help create and develop youth advisory boards.

Alex has served as the Legislative Liaison for the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America for two years. He participated in the 2008 Alumni , the 2009 anniversary of Chafee funding, and presented a workshop at the 2009 NILA Conference. Alex was chosen by Ohio's First Lady to represent the needs of Ohio's foster care youth on Governor Strickland's 2010 .

Alex is known throughout the state for his vision and determination. He testified before Ohio legislators to advocate for the restoration of the state Independent Living Allocation. He arranged for Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies to visit 24 legislator’s offices in order to promote Ready to Launch, a reminder to Ohio legislators of a front-end investment in transitional youth.

Alex is committed to supporting the national foster care youth/alumni community. During the 2009 NILA conference, he arranged a meeting of representatives from the Colorado, Tennessee and Ohio chapter in order to network and share ideas. He continues to keep in touch with FCAA members in Colorado, in order to be a support to them as they build their chapter.

Finally, Alex is a strong advocate of education reform. He is an active participant in Ohio Reach, a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college. In 2009, he participated in the statewide Ohio Reach Summit, including serving on the panel of youth voices. Alex’s words and passion resonated with participants, which included 100 social workers and 100 higher education representatives.

Alex uses his experiences from his entire life, when he was officially in foster care and even before that, as well as all the experiences from the youth he interacts with on a daily basis, to help shape solutions for Ohio’s foster youth. Whether he is on the field in a legislator’s office, at school studying Biology, or working as a Assistant Manager for Jack’s Aquarium and Pets, Alex strives to help the Children, Foster Youth, Former Foster Youth and pets of his community.

Honoring Our Beginnings

Ohio is known as the birthplace of aviation. Let it be known that PCSAO is the birthplace of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, and has served as its support base for the past three years. What began with a room full of foster care youth from across the state is now recognized as a legitimate and serious youth voice for all those who are served by the Ohio child welfare system.

It cannot be understated that we would not be where we are today without the stability and reputation of PCSAO. What better way for a young organization to grow, than under the guidance of an established entity?  A very heartfelt thank you to Crystal Ward Allen, Brandi Scales, Greg Kapcar, Max Bucey, Jessica Schneider-Chance, Kelly Knight and Jeed Jitprasert, and every intern or associate that played a part in supporting the Ohio Youth Advisory Board…

Just as the youth involved in the Ohio YAB are traveling along the road to independence, so the Ohio Youth Advisory Board is developing our own unique identity as well. This evolution has been recently supported by ODJFS through their generous investment in the growth and development of county youth advisory boards. From the very beginning, Ohio YAB officers have hoped to establish and build a regional presence throughout the state, and building up county youth advisory boards is an important step in that direction.

As founding member, two-term President and current Alumni Facilitator of the Ohio YAB, I truly believe that our organization is on the brink of being one of the greatest youth advisory boards in the county. And we owe our progress to our supporters. From the meeting spaces, to the logistics of organizing events, to helping craft our message and present it to the various entities, PCSAO has been there all the way. Teaching and guiding us as we maneuver the halls of the legislature; advocating for our fellow brothers and sisters. As we transformed from able youth to advocating adults, PCSAO was just a heartbeat away, aiding in breaking down the bureaucratic tape and language.

It started as an idea, a call to action for young people to make a difference. The seed of an organization was planted, and PCSAO helped grow the leaders to lead it. We have made a difference in the lives of so many people and will continue to do so. I offer my gratitude to the organization that has supported our development for so long, and my appreciation for Doris Edelmann and Lisa Dickson for serving as primary adult supporters during our transition.

I offer up my gratitude to PCSAO, OHILA, ODJFS, OCWTP, OACCA, FCAA-Ohio, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the many other organizations and individuals who have contributed to our success. On behalf of current and former foster youth, I say a heartfelt “Thank You” to everyone for everything in regards to OUR Ohio Youth Advisory Board.

Thank you and God Bless,

--President Adrian M. McLemore

Friday, April 30, 2010

Governor's Steering Committee on Transitional Youth and Young Adults

During 2010, Ohio YAB President Alex McLemore, former President Adrian McLemore, and adult supporters Mark Mecum, Doris Edelmann and Lisa Dickson participated in the Ohio Family and Children First Youth and Young Adults in Transition Steering Committee.

The committee was convened by Governor Strickland to recommend alignment and consolidation of policies, efforts, and resources and to identify major gaps for this particularly vulnerable and often overlooked population: vulnerable youth and young adults, ages 14-25.

After months of meetings, the committee has released its final report to the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council.  The report may accessed here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

National Advocacy Opportunities

Regarding the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Ohio foster care youth and alumni are invited to write letters to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, regarding the need to support the specific needs of foster care youth.
Template that Ohio youth/alumni can use, and personalize with their own insights/experiences:

The Honorable Tom Harkin
Chairman, HELP Committee
428 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mike Enzi
Ranking Member, HELP Committee
428 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi,

We are writing you on behalf of (your county youth advisory board), a youth-led organization of foster care youth, to request that foster care specific concerns be addressed in the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

As foster care youth, we have experienced educational challenges.  (Insert specific experience, such as changing schools in the middle of the year, having different textbooks and losing credits, etc. For statistics, you can use some of the stats listed on the Changing the Odds wiki).

There are specific steps that can be included in the reauthorization of the ESEA that would improve the educational experiences and outcomes for youth in and from foster care. (Make your suggestions)

Sign on behalf of the officers of your county youth advisory board: 
Name of Officer
Office Held
Name of Board

Friday, April 16, 2010

Save the Date: May 22, 2010

Message from the Purple Project:

The Purple Project, would like to invite your agency and teens in care, to attend “Finishing The Journey,” Aging  Out of Today’s Foster Care System, a youth conference in Cleveland, Ohio  May 22, 2010. This is a  great opportunity for teens!  

Guest Speakers will include Emmy award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels from the pioneer group RUN DMC, County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, and Philanthropist-Foster Care Alumni and Advocates Tanya Cooper and Tanisha Cunningham

Please contact the Purple Project at (216) 269-6667, email or visit us at if you have any questions or need assistance registering.  

Thanks, and we hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

2010 Ohio YAB Officers

President Alex McFarland, Montgomery County

Vice President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, Lorain County

Treasurer Krystal Robinson, Lorain County

Secretary Chasstity Young, Athens County

Media Spokesperson - TBA

Parliamentarian - TBA

Saturday, April 10, 2010

An Open Letter Dr. William C. Bell, CEO of Casey Family Programs

Dear Dr. William C. Bell,

We are writing you on behalf of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board (OHIO YAB), a youth-led
organization that exists to be the statewide voice for Ohio foster care youth, to ask Casey
Family Programs to offer scholarships for each of the 50 states so that two youth from
each state can attend the 2010 NILA “Growing Pains” conference.

Every year, foster care and emancipated youth throughout the nation looked forward to
the “It’s My Life” conference, formerly sponsored by Casey Family Programs. This
conference provided youth leadership and advocacy training, facilitated national
information-sharing regarding Best Practices, and contributed to building the national
network of foster care youth and alumni.

Now that “It's My Life” is on (permanent?) hiatus, the annual NILA “Growing Pains”
conference, sponsored by the Daniel Memorial Institute, is the primary national
conference that facilitates interaction between foster care youth, foster care alumni and
child welfare professionals each year. This conference is coordinated by Stephanie
Waugerman, (904) 296-1055 ext. 1013,

The 2010 NILA “Growing Pains” conference will take place from September 7-10, 2010 in
Washington D.C. Activities will include legislator visits with Congressional representatives
from across the nation, and an opportunity to meet with the Senate Caucus Committee on
Foster Care. Sponsoring two youth from every state to participate would allow 100
foster care youth an opportunity and a voice at our nation’s capital.

We welcome any questions you may have regarding this request.


Alex McFarland, President
Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, Vice President
Ohio Youth Advisory Board

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Statewide Meetings

To encourage and allow for youth participation during quarterly Ohio YAB statewide meetings, they are scheduled in conjunction with the Ohio Independent Living Association's quarterly meetings:

  • January 21, 2010
  • April 15, 2010
  • July 15, 2010
  • October 21, 2010

Meetings will be held at the ODJFS Air Center located at 4020 E. Fifth Street in Columbus from 11:00AM - 2:00PM.