Monday, November 14, 2011

Timeline of Youth Advisory Boards in Ohio

 Timeline regarding the establishment of foster care Youth Advisory Boards in Ohio:
  • 2004: VISION in Montgomery County began Voicing Independent Solutions in Our Neighborhoods
  • 2005: TAGyc was born, Cuyahoga County's Teen Advisory Group Youth Council
  • 2006-2007: Establishment of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board (Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio)
  • January 11, 2008, Groundwork to establish a future Stark County YAB
  • January 25, 2008, Groundwork to establish a future Lorain County YAB
  • July 15, 2008, Official birth date of the Mahoning and Stark County Youth Advisory Boards 
  • July 22, 2008, ACTION in Athens was born: "Athens County Together in Overcoming Negatives"
*Please note: We are still working to determine the exact dates that Franklin, Hamilton and Summit County YABs were established.

**Counties that are currently working to establish a local Youth Advisory Board within the next year include: Allen, Lucas, and Portage Counties.

***Counties that face challenges in establishing a county Youth Advisory Board but wish to partner with others to establish a Regional Board include Greene County (who formerly partnered with Montgomery County to participate in the SW Youth Advisory Board).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Event for Foster Care Youth and Alumni

Earlier this year, representatives from the Ohio Youth Advisory Board met with ODJFS Director Michael Colbert, and shared a vision with him...

This vision was for Ohio to hold a statewide event for current and former foster youth -- the primary purpose of which would be to connect young people with employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

As with every other issue that we have brought to ODJFS Director Colbert's attention so far, he took our request seriously and followed up on it.

Yesterday, Ohio's very first Career and Entrepreneurship Event for Foster Care Youth and Alumni was held...

  • Lisa Dickson served as Lead Facilitator, and ensured that youth voice was the guiding force of the conference

  • Meeting Space was made possible due to the ODJFS funding allocation for the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.
  • Continental Breakfast, Lunch and Beverages are provided courtesy of the Dave Thomas Foundation, ACTION Ohio, New Beginnings Insurance Services, the Institute for Human Services, and Randi Lewis' generous donation to the support the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.
The event included a Resume Clinic, staffed by professionals, and Suits for Success, freely available to participating youth...

At the end of the day, our most valuable feedback came -- of course -- from the youth themselves...

Rhonda Sciortino's Keynote ~ Quotes from Youth Evaluations:
  • “It was wonderful. I am SO glad she was able to come. It gave me a lot of insight, not only into my situation, but how to live my life.”
  • “I liked that Rhonda encouraged us – we need more of that”
  • “It was nice to be able to meet someone that was a foster child in the past, and that has a wonderful life.”
  • “This session was really helpful and inspirational to me cause it gave a lot more hope for my future and it showed me that you can do whatever you want, if you have the passion for it and put your mind into it.”
  • “Mrs. Sciortino taught me that no matter what anyone says to try and put me down and say that I can’t do it, that I’m the ONLY ONE who can change my life and succeed in my life.”
  • "Was really interested in what Rhonda was saying – it gave me hope that I could become something in life. LOVED IT”
One young person just wrote, on the evaluation form regarding Rhonda's presentation: "Thank you."

Overall Event ~ Quotes from Youth Evaluations:
  • “Worth the trip, thoroughly enjoyed it”
  • “It was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. I hope we can do it again, soon.”
  • “I loved it. This conference ROCKS! I hope we have another”
  • “I thought that it was all very helpful! And I think that all the information I got today will help me down the line.”
  • “Anything they said was helpful, if you just apply it to your life. A quote that always went through my head: ‘How to you live when you’re ruled by your past? But how do you forget a past that made you?”
  • “I enjoyed it, and it will help me in the future.”
  • “The event was a success in terms of the people I connected with.”
  • “The whole event was very professional, and organized by the way that everything was set up and put together, and I believe everyone who decided to have this event for us are really caring people who really cares about the youth and where they end up, and who they become. Thank you very much for inviting me.”
  • “I have really enjoyed the whole entire time I’ve been here. I appreciate every single person who taught me things that I didn’t know were possible”
  • “I’m glad I came today, because I learned a lot of stuff that will help me with a successful future.”
  • “I am really glad that I got to come up to Columbus; I am leaving with lots of new facts than when I came. I really think that all students need to do what I did today.”
  • “I really enjoyed it, even though I had to get up really early. I liked it.”
  • “I really enjoyed myself and really changed my perspective on jobs, life and success. Loved it!!!”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Congratulations, 2012 Ohio Youth Advisory Board Officers

After our Halloween-themed October quarterly meeting, the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio (O.H.I.O) Youth Advisory Board would like to welcome and congratulate 2012 Statewide Officers:

  • President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, Lorain County 
  • Vice President Alexander McFarland, Montgomery County
  • Media Spokesperson Dauntea Sledge, Franklin County
  • Secretary Denae Haney, Athens County
  • Parliamentarian Autumn Kester, Portage County
  • Treasurer Terrell Howard, Cuyahoga County

ODJFS Director Michael Colbert: Champion of Ohio Foster Youth Transitioning Into Adulthood

The Ohio Youth Advisory Board and Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America deeply appreciate the thoroughness with which ODJFS Director Michael Colbert has followed up on concerns expressed by Ohio foster care youth regarding challenges faced during the time when they transition into adulthood.

Please visit the following links to read:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Arlene Jones Testimony on HB 86 ~ Foster Youth Notification Provisions

Sub. HB 86: Criminal Sentencing and Juvenile Justice Reform
Foster Youth Community Notification Provisions
Representatives Lou Blessing and Tracy Heard, Sponsors

Good evening Chairman Grendell, Vice-Chairman Obhof, Ranking Member Turner and members of the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee. I am Arlene Samuel Jones and I am caseworker at a Public Child Serving Agency, a wife, mother, caregiver, productive member of society and a foster care alumnus. Today I stand before you not as representative of my agency, but as a member of society, mother, caregiver and a foster care alumnus. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to hear my testimony.

I first want to express my deepest and sincere gratitude for the recent addition of $2 million in support of foster youth making the transition into adulthood. This is a very scary stage of foster care and your support at this point in a foster youth’s life deserves recognition. Thank you for your investment in the leaders of tomorrow today.

Today I stand before to express my opposition to the provision added to Sub. HB 86 entitled Foster Youth Community Notification Provision. This provision will require that information about youth who have been identified as “special needs” and placed into treatment homes be shared with members of the community. I am opposed to such notification on the grounds that it places these identified youth at further risk for harm, it promotes false assumptions and stigmatizes foster youth beyond the presumed notions that are already prevalent in our society, it is discriminatory and does not protect a youth’s right to confidentiality.

In Ohio, a school can preclude a student from attending their school based on certain information, which can include diagnoses that have been linked with behavioral issues. If we let this provision stay in this bill and provide school officials with the information that this provision is requiring to be released, school officials at certain schools will not accept a student based on this information, thereby placing foster youth at further risk as we all know that education is the key to success in life. If we as a foster youth cannot get this education from an institution that our caregiver believes is best for us, we are doing more harm than good. In addition to this, these identified special needs foster youth will automatically be targeted as the culprits of criminal activity that occurs within the neighborhood, which will also increase vulnerability as they will become scapegoats in the community and could potentially be the target of vigilante justice or some type of retribution. This directly contradicts what public child serving agencies are supposed to do; provide a safe home for youth who are placed in out of home care.

This provision also inadvertently promotes the false assumption that we as foster youth are “bad” kids. Per current statute, community notification is required for sexual offenders as they have committed acts against someone. When we are placed in the custody of a PCSA it is usually not a result of our own actions and should not be treated as if we have done something wrong, which also stigmatizes us. Compounding this false assumption and stigmatization is the inherent discrimination against foster youth. I have a son who would more than likely be identified as “special needs” child, yet there are no provisions stating that I must provide notification of my residence, my son’s name, age and other identifying information to people in our community. Best practices indicate that foster youth should be provided with as much normalcy as possible, and this provision does not promote the normal life that we as foster youth so desperately yearn for.

In fact, if some of the information that will be required to be released were sent out to community members on any other child, namely a child who is not in the care of PCSA, there would be parents and caregivers protesting the release of information that is supposed to be confidential, i.e. facts surrounding diagnosis, delinquency charges and related facts, age and other identifying information.

I have heard on several occasions that too often, Ohio is reactive in its legislative process instead of proactive. I heard this very statement at this Statehouse during a press conference celebrating the passage of the Marcus Fiesel Bill and just yesterday from a colleague of mine. We cannot penalize the foster youth of tomorrow and do so in the name of safety because someone who was in foster care did not fare so well. As a famous musician once said, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”

In closing, I would like to again express my gratitude for your support of foster youth who are transitioning into adulthood. I respectfully request that the Foster Youth Community Notification Provisions be removed from Sub. HB 86. Thank you so much for listening to my testimony. I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have at this time.

Lamar GrahamTestimony on HB 86 ~ Foster Youth Notification Provisions

Sub. HB 86: Criminal Sentencing and Juvenile Justice Reform
Foster Youth Community Notification Provisions
Representatives Lou Blessing and Tracy Heard, Sponsors

Chairman Grendell, Vice-Chairman Obhof, Ranking Member Turner, and members of the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee, thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on HB 86.

Mr. Chairman my name is Lamar Graham and I’m an alumnus of Franklin County Children Services and Montgomery County Children Services. I spent 8 years of my life as ward of the court. First let me say that I am very appreciative for the opportunity to present before you today.

I am here to express concerns regarding a provision that has been added to House Bill 86, that would require notification when a foster child moves into the neighborhood.

I come to you today as a concerned ex-foster child, who knows all too well what it feels like not to have self-esteem. I entered foster care because I was abused and neglected by my mother – the person whom I loved the most.

Now, just imagine, not only being alienated from your mother, but also society. Imagine having the people around you, including your teachers and the local police force, look at you with the preconception that you were going to cause problems. That is too big a burden that no one should carry.

My desire is to give back to my community to allow other foster youth to know that they can overcome any obstacle that may come their way. I only hope now that you meet me half way. For what is worth, today I am a proud college graduate. I currently have an Associate’s Degree as well as a Bachelor’s of Science. My occupation is a teacher and college advisor.

My desire is to give back to my community to allow other foster youth to know that they can overcome any obstacle that may come their way. I only hope now that you are willing to meet me half way.

I hope that you can find compassion in your heart to overturn HB 86 not only for the foster youth who would be ostracized, but also for the community at large. Each one of us are a valuable part of the community and, if you allow HB 86 to pass, then you not only hurt directly the foster youth, but you also hurt yourself indirectly, by not allowing our contributions to society.

I urge you to remove provisions slipped into HB 86 that would require notification when a foster child moves into the neighborhood. Most foster children just want to find a place to call home.

Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Alex McFarland Testimony on HB 86 ~ Foster Youth Notification Provisions

Link to more photos.

Sub. HB 86: Criminal Sentencing and Juvenile Justice Reform
Foster Youth Community Notification Provisions
Representatives Lou Blessing and Tracy Heard, Sponsors

Chairman Grendell, Vice-Chairman Obhof, Ranking Member Turner, and members of the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee, thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on HB 86.

My name is Alex McFarland I am a former foster child and current youth advocate. I represent the Ohio Youth Advisory Board, for which I served as President for two years.

I am here to express concerns and opposition to Foster Youth Community Notification Provisions that have been added to House Bill 86. Notices would be sent to school superintendents, the County sheriff and the Chief of Police, with the child’s name, age and address - as if the youth were an adult sexual offender or a hardened criminal.

My argument will focus on discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping. The stigma of being in foster care is hard enough for young people to overcome. I once had told a friend that I was in the system; her response was,” What did you do wrong?” This idea that we the kids have done something wrong is one of the main reasons it took me a while to tell anyone about my past. Not only that but how do you explain to someone that your family doesn’t love you?

As a child I was thrown around, and told daily that I was worthless. This had a negative impact on my self esteem. I had low expectations of myself, because in my eyes, I was worthless.

Today, I am a college student, entering into my junior year at the Miami University Oxford. I am a manager at a pet store; a job that I have held for the past three years. I have served in leadership roles on a local and statewide level to advocate for current and former foster youth. The list could go on with the things I have accomplished. I am not worthless, and people value me.

As foster youth, we cannot change our parents or how we were raised - we can only change our future. This provision denies us once again the ability to live a normal life, something we want more than anything, to just feel okay.

What is the intent behind this provision? What is it intended to accomplish? By notify the Chief of Police and County Sheriff where foster youth live, this implies that if anything goes wrong in that neighborhood, it is probably a foster care youth. Similarly, contacting the superintendent sends the message that, “This child will not perform well at your school. This child will cause problems at your school.”

This provision is a form of prejudice that denies foster care youth the ability to live a normal life, something we want more than anything else, to just feel okay. We are not criminals; we are survivors in a world arranged for us to fail. This provision will only create one more barrier for us in our efforts to succeed. This provision is bad policy for Ohio and is bad policy for change.

Therefore I urge the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee to remove the provision form HB 86 that will require notification when a foster youth moves into a neighborhood. Thank you for your time, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Coalition of Opposition to HB 86 Foster Child Community Notification Provisions

To: Chairman Tim Grendell, Senate Judiciary Committee - Criminal Justice
Senator Larry Obhof, Vice Chair Senator Nina Turner, Ranking Minority Member
Senator Frank LaRose Senator Eric Kearney
Senator Peggy Lehner Senator Joe Schiavoni
Senator Scott Oelslager
Senator Mark Wagoner

RE: Opposition to HB 86 Foster Child Community Notification Provisions

We strongly urge members of the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee and all members of the Senate to remove provisions slipped into HB 86 that mix Sex Offender Registration and Notification policy with the placement of abused and neglected children into treatment and therapeutic foster homes. The amendment language, added into the substitute bill can be found in Sections 2151.55 THROUGH 2151.555.

Currently, about half of all foster children are placed in some level of therapeutic care due to their history of being abused or neglected. The notification requirements added to HB 86 target many children who pose no community safety threat and will have the unintended effect of stigmatizing and further traumatizing children for being foster children and needing specific treatment to address multiple and sometimes severe psychiatric, emotional and behavioral management issues.

The notification provisions cross the line and will not increase community safety, but rather add to the vulnerability of the children our state is obligated to protect from additional trauma and abuse. We are talking about children who, at no fault of their own, have been removed from their homes and traumatized by abuse and neglect.

We oppose this amendment as it would violate privacy and penalize children and families, with no improvement of public safety. These community notification requirements perpetuate the myth that people with mental illnesses or emotional disorders are violent. These provisions promote the criminalization of individuals with mental illness. Furthermore, these notification provisions contribute to the challenge of finding, preparing and supporting the foster homes that are desperately needed to care for Ohio’s abused and neglected children.

As a coalition, we strongly request you delete this language.


OHIO YAB (Overcoming Hurdles In Ohio Youth Advisory Board), Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, President
Adopt America Network (based in Lucas County), Wendy Sproerl, President
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, Renuka Mayadev, Director
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Rita L. Soronen, President and CEO
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio, Terry Russell, Executive Director
National Center for Adoption and Law Policy, Capital University Law School, Denise St. Claire, Director
Ohio Adoption Planning Group (OAPG), Kathy Franz of NOAS, Chair
Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies, Penny Wyman, Executive Director
Ohio CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Jackie Wilson, Executive Director
Ohio Foster Care Association (OFCA), Betsy Johnson, Board President
Ohio Grandparent Kinship Coalition, Dionne Simmons, Wright State University & Jamie Richardson, Lucas Co
Area Agency on Aging, OGKC Co-Presidents
Ohio Independent Living Association (OHILA), Darlene Skinner of Daybreak, President
Public Children Services Association of Ohio, Crystal Ward Allen, Executive Director
The Ohio Council, Hubert Wirtz, CEO
Voices for Ohio’s Children, Amy Swanson, Executive Director
Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau, Debbie Cowan, Director
Catholic Charities / Parmadale, Maureen E. Dee, Director
Daybreak, Linda Kramer, CEO
Maryhaven, Paul H. Coleman, President and CEO
Northeast Ohio Adoption Services (NOAS), Cindy Deal, Executive Director
Pathway Caring for Children, Eric Belden, Executive Director
The Village Network, Jim Miller, Executive Director

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ohio YAB Opposition to Provision Added to House Bill

Link to more photos.
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

Adrian McLemore in Associated Press article

This Father's Day, an article about our very own Adrian McLemore, first President and founding member of the "Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio" statewide youth advisory board, and current Media Spokesperson of Foster Care Alumni of America's Ohio chapter, is being shared throughout the country.

Authored by Associated Press journalist Helen O'Neill, this article focuses on Adrian's role as uncle/kinship caregiver for his niece and nephew.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Radio interview with ODJFS Director Michael Colbert and Adrian McLemore

Key quotes:
  • ODJFS Director Colbert points out that today's foster teens are Ohio's future citizens and leaders, and that by supporting them now, they won't need other types of support in the future.
"What you don't want is young people to leave our system and come back, right back in another system. You want them to leave our system and go on to become productive citizens in life."

  • The director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Michael Colbert, has met with many of Ohio's foster youth, and says he is impressed with their resilience. He adds that it's crucial to prioritize support for their future success.
"These are very good young people. They've had some tough times and, by giving them a small bridge to help them better themselves in life, we are making Ohio as a whole better, and this goes a long way for such a little investment."

Appreciation of ODJFS Director Michael Colbert

ODJFS Director Michael Colbert,

The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America would like to thank ODJFS for advocating for the $2 million/year designation of TANF funds in HB 153 to support the restoration of the foster care Independent Living Initiative. We offer our thanks on behalf of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board as well.

Please let us know if there is any work that we can do to support your efforts. We are more than willing to advocate for funding.

Ohio foster care youth and alumni were deeply involved in advocating for this allocation in 2009:
Testimony by Ohio foster care youth was quoted in the 2009 Hannah Reports:
Please keep us posted and let us know if there is anything we can do to support your work,

Once again, thank you – the words themselves seem insufficient in comparison with our gratitude.


Lisa Dickson
Communications Chair
Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter

Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 Wendy's Wonderful Kids Summit ~ Youth Panel

The 2011 Wendy's Wonderful Kids Summit took place at the Hilton at Easton.

Attendees included adoption recruiters and their supervisors from all 50 states and Canada - 250 adoption professionals who work to find families for children in United States foster care. Many work with older youth.

Lisa Dickson, of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, moderated a 3-panel youth panel presentation, made up of members of the Montgomery County VISION Board and the Ohio Youth Advisory board.

Panel members Tyniesha ("Tiny") Lanos, Brianna Christian and Adrian McLemore did a wonderful job!

2011 Summit County Youth Panel

On May 12, representatives from the Summit County Youth Advisory Board, "Leaders of Tomorrow" participated in a three-hour youth panel about the "Aspects of Positive Foster Care Placement" facilitated by Lisa Dickson during the 2011 NEORTC Foster Parent conference.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Resources for Ohio youth "aging out" of foster care


  • Go with the young person to apply for food stamps, or accompany him or her to the nearest Food Bank.
  • Here's a list of Food Banks in Ohio.


  • Foster care youth who "age out" of the system can receive Medicaid until age 21.
  • Navigating the adult Medicaid system can be challenging.
  • Don't assume that the staff at the Medicaid office will be aware of this program -- bring a copy of the flyer.

Higher Ed
  • Ohio Reach is a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college.
  • A good place to start in choosing a college is to look over the list of Ohio Reach Campus Liaisons.


Legal Assistance

Are you a current or former foster youth between ages 16-25?

Do you need help with:
  • Understanding legal papers? 
  • Getting healthcare, public benefits, housing or insurance? 
  • Applying to college? Deleting criminal records? 
  • Finding your social security card, birth certificate, or other personal documents? 
  • Speaking up for yourself in court, at school or in the community? 
Contact the Foster Youth Advocacy Center: (614) 236-6768,


Mental Health
  • Each Ohio county has a Mental Health Board, and it's up to us to advocate for specific services for transitioning foster care youth.
  • It's important to be aware that former foster youth suffer from PTSD at a rate twice that of Vietnam war veterans.


Phone Bills
Self Advocacy
Social Security

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cieria Rodriguez-Toney, 2011 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader

Congratulations to Cieria Rodriguez-Toney for being chosen by FosterClub 
to be recognized as a 2011 Outstanding Young Leader.

Prior to being elected as the Ohio YAB's first female President, Cieria served as Vice President for two years.
Cieria has participated in youth panels for several organizations, including Capital Law School's National Center for Adoption Law and Policy and the 2011 Northeast Ohio Independent Living Summit. She was invited by the Ohio Supreme Court to present during a 2010 Judicial Teleconference on Youth Voice in Court.
 Throughout the state, Cieria continues to support the efforts of county youth advisory boards, including:
  • Co-presenting a workshop for Lorain County foster youth on how to build and maintain foster care youth/alumni communities
  • Co-presenting a workshop for Stark County youth on navigating relationships with biological parents

During her time in foster care, Cieria felt disconnected from her Hispanic heritage. As a young adult, Cieria is currently advocating for opportunities for Ohio foster care youth to reconnect with their culture during their time in foster care. Particularly, she would like to see the Columbus International Festival offer a youth track, at cost to the public but free of charge to foster youth.

Because of her passion to make a difference, Cieria recently helped facilitate the 2011 Hispanic Leadership Conference.

Cieria is an articulate advocate, skilled at diplomacy and very reliable. She exemplifies the type of vision  and determination that young people need to succeed. And... she is also a wonderful mother:

Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 FosterClub AllStar Dauntea Sledge

Dauntea Sledge is a former Franklin County foster youth who currently serves as President of the Franklin County Youth Advisory Board, and Media Spokesperson of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board. He is an active member of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.

Dauntea's volunteer experience includes the following:
  • Bridges Out of Poverty Steering Committee
  • Youth Violence Prevention Board
  • Franklin County Citizen Corps Counsel
  • Salesian Boys and Girls Club
  • Americorps VISTA 
After attending the Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead programs as a participant, Dauntea now assists facilitators in leading workshops that support the Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative.

During his time with the Salesians Boys and Girls Club, Dauntea was the runner-up for "Youth of the Year" and received the "Turned Around Teen of the Year" award.

Dauntea spent a year volunteering for Americorps Vista, working for Community Properties of Ohio, working with people in poverty and broken homes.
Recent activities that Dauntea has been involved in include:
  • Participating in an FCAA/FosterClub Focus Group to investigate launching an Americorps pilot targeted specifically for foster care youth
  • Presenting as part of a Youth Panel during the 2010 Ohio CASA Conference
  • Co-presenting workshops for youth during the 2010 Northeast Ohio Independent Living Summit
  • Sharing the importance of "Youth Voice In Court" during a 2010 Judicial Teleconference hosted by the Ohio Supreme Court
After presenting during the 2010 Judicial Teleconference on Youth Voice in Court, Dauntea was asked to write an article for Common Ground, a publication of the Ohio Supreme Court that goes out to each of Ohio's 88 judicial districts. The decision was made that, from now on, there will be a Youth Corner in the Common Ground Publication.

During his time in foster care, Dauntea was able to stay in touch with his younger brother Antonio, in order to support and encourage him, and make sure he is aware of resources to assist in navigating both foster care and young adulthood.

Dauntea and Antonio currently volunteer to co-facilitate monthly activities for Village Network Columbus in order to help to prepare foster youth for adulthood, and encourage them to support one another as peers.

Additional investments that Dauntea makes with his time include:
  • Supporting the goals of National Center for Adoption Law and Policy to starting a free legal clinic for current and former foster youth
  • Supporting ODJFS in improving the quality of caseworker visits
  • Supporting Ohio CASA in their desire to include the voices of current and former foster youth on Citizen Review Panels.
  • Being a wonderful father to his two children: 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

VISION in Dayton leads to campus housing

Kudos to the VISION Youth Advisory Board for their advocacy efforts to provide campus housing during breaks for former foster youth attending Wright State University!!

Quote from Adrian McLemore, posted on Wright State's website 
and featured in Sunday Dayton Daily News today:

"When I aged out of the foster system, I moved straight to Wright State. Being a former foster child, I had nowhere to go during breaks. See, we're not allowed to go back to where we were. Dan Bertsos and others at Wright State helped me to be sure I always had someplace to stay. They saw things in me that I couldn't see. I've learned a lot about myself and have become a leader, helping other foster kids find their way to college and to break the cycle of foster care."

—Adrian McLemore, Political Science major

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ohio YAB Event Calendar ~ Spring 2011


  • January 15,  Ohio YAB Officer's Retreat
  • January 20, Quarterly Ohio YAB Meeting in Columbus
  • January 29, Stark County workshop on "Navigating Relationships With Bio Families"


  • February 11, OFC opportunity for youth voice on Ohio rules & regulations
  • February 13, Franklin County Youth Panel 
  • February 15, Deadline to submit FosterClub AllStar Application/Recommendation
  • February 26, Summit County Youth Advisory Board Training


  • March 8, SACWIS meeting
  • March 11, CO-OP Conference for Foster Parents


  • April 16, Hispanic Leadership Conference in Lorain
  • April 21, Quarterly Ohio YAB meeting in Columbus


  • May 12, Youth Panel in Summit County
  • May 19, Wendy's Wonderful Kids Summit
  • June 24-25, Purple Project Conference in Cleveland

Friday, January 21, 2011

2011 Ohio YAB Officers Retreat

The 2011 Ohio YAB Officers Retreat took place on Saturday, January 15, 2011 at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

 9:00 am – 10:00 am, Review Ohio YAB Strategic Plan (Adrian McLemore)
10:00 am – 10:30 am, Oath of Office for Ohio YAB Officers (Adrian McLemore)
10:30 am – 11:00 am, ODJFS Funding for YABs: Logistics (Doris Edelmann)
11:00 am – 11:30 am, Business Cards for Officers (Cieria Rodriguez-Toney)
11:30 am – 12:00 pm, YAB Officer Training and Development (Lisa Dickson)


1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, Polls, focus groups, CRB, OH Bulletin (Lisa Dickson)
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm,  Ohio’s $8 billion deficit and advocacy (Doris Edelman)
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm, Regional outreach, YAB promotion (Adrian McLemore)
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm, Media Outreach, Technology (Alex McFarland)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Presidential Address

Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board

We exist to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices 
that affect all youth who have or will experience out of home care.

I’d like to start out by saying how excited, as well as honored I am to serve as your President of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.

I want to remind each of you that we are a board of people who are concerned and motivated to serve you and those brothers and sisters of ours that are still in care or aged out and for the future youth to come.

With that being said, I cannot stress enough that we are just the face of this board, and that you and the others we speak out for are the strong heartbeat that truly matters to us and keeps us going.

As President, I personally vow to stay as knowledgeable as possible for the advancement of foster care into a better tomorrow. I will advocate for all needs no matter how small or large the obstacle may seem.

With a new year and new administration ahead, I would also like to take this time to invite ideas from every youth member of the board, as well as adult supporters.

I’d like to thank each adult supporter in advance for supporting the needs of your youth, as well as the vision of Ohio Youth Advisory Board, and look forward to working with you and appreciating your individual areas of expertise.

Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or thoughts you may have. I would like to reiterate that I look forward to leading as your president during this New Year ahead.

~ President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Spotlight on Ohio Youth: Danny Taylor

Danny Taylor has a long history of involvement in foster care advocacy, including his involvement in Cuyahoga County’s Teen Advisory Group (TAGyc) and Ohio’s statewide foster care youth advisory board (Ohio YAB).

Danny's strongest skills are creativity and communication. Danny could walk into a room of strangers, and make every person in that room feel at ease. He has the ability to connect with and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds.

During the time that Danny served as Media Spokesperson for Ohio’s statewide youth advisory board, he was asked to figure out a way to share his communications skills with other youth. Danny responded by creating this diagram:

Danny’s diagram, the Taylor Model, has been shared on a statewide level, and proved to be helpful in facilitating positive communication between youth and social workers, youth and foster parents, and during roundtable meetings discussing permanency/independent living.

As Danny explains it, “When I come to the table, I don’t expect to do all the talking. I’m willing to listen, too. And I will respect the role and responsibilities that you have. But I’d like to have at least one-third of the say at the table – because your decisions directly impact my life and my future.”

Similarly, during Ohio’s NE Thanksgiving dinner for teens in foster care and emancipated youth, Danny shared a poem he had written about what holidays are like for youth after emancipating from foster care. His words resonated with attendees:

Chew on this... you look left and right and see empty chairs
You talk about fun times over the year but silence only fills the air
You slouch down in your chair and no one scolds you and makes you sit up
A plate hits the floor and no one tell you to get up

I know. Hard to imagine, yet crazy as it seems
This is reality for some, at times even myself
To lie to myself and say all I need is me
No dinner on the table... just another day I'm thankful for being able to see more misery

Grateful for feeling unwanted and not feeling a part of the family
Knowing and having it shoved in my face like the dressing
Stuffed like a turkey of thoughts so depressing
It shouldn't be like this!

Why is it like this?
Why can't I connect with you? Why can't you connect with me? Why is it like this?
How come my yams aren't so sweet?

In addition to capturing the struggle of holidays spent without a forever family, Danny’s poem also spoke of humor, hope, and resilience:

Who said anything about misery?
I'm all smiles and giggles, come look at me
Looky! Looky! I got collard greens
And never had zucchini bread until I had some from the wonderful lady
Every time I take a bite, I savor the flavor and think how much better it tastes around everyone….

These stanzas capture the heart of Danny’s upbeat personality. Throughout every challenge I have seen him face as an emancipated foster youth, including having his wisdom teeth come in when he lacked medical insurance, Danny has displayed perseverance and a positive attitude. I am proud to know him, and to be able to stand side-by-side in our efforts towards foster care advocacy and building up the community of current and former foster youth here in Ohio.