Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Allen County Youth Advisory Board

Allen County Youth Advisory Board
assisting a food pantry distribute food
for Make A Difference Day October 27th 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Two New Transitional Youth Coordinators

From ODJFS First Friday publication:
Welcome to OFC’s new Transitional Youth Coordinators

One of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board’s “Top Five Asks of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS)” was for state staff to advocate for uniformity when it comes to youth who emancipate from care in Ohio. To help meet this request, the Bureau of Child and Adult Protection has appointed two new transitional youth coordinators: Susan Halter and Laurie Valentine (pictured below).

Susan has been with ODJFS for the past five years as a technical assistance specialist. Prior to that, she worked at Montgomery County Children Services for 14 years as a caseworker. Susan has 20 years of experience working with youth in various capacities through community service and mentoring.

Laurie has been with ODJFS for the past four years as a business analyst with the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) project, providing technical assistance to counties and private agencies. Before that, she worked on independent living and case planning projects at Pickaway County Job and Family Services for five years. Laurie has worked with youth in child welfare settings, public schools and the private sector for the past 21 years.

As a team, Susan and Laurie will work with public children services agencies (PCSAs) and private child placing agencies to identify the array of independent living services provided to youth in each county. They will work to create uniformity in these services and to improve the housing, employment and educational outcomes for youth who emancipate from agency custody.

To ensure regular communication with local agencies and our other partners, Susan and Laurie will host quarterly meetings for county independent living coordinators beginning in January 2013. At these meetings, they will share best practice ideas and provide technical assistance to county caseworkers and their supervisors. First Friday also will include regular news and updates regarding transitional living. To learn more, email Laurie.Valentine@jfs.ohio.gov or Susan.Halter@jfs.ohio.gov.

An Introductory Transitional Living Videoconference is planned for 2-3 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, 2012. The conference will provide a brief overview of transitional living expectations and barriers. It also will explain the role of the new transitional youth coordinators.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CCAI Delegation Dinner with OYAB

During their 20/20 Vision Program Delegation to Ohio, CCAI hosted a dinner, during which the delegation had the opportunity to hear from and interact with youth representatives of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.

Friday, October 19, 2012

2013 OHIO Youth Advisory Board Officers

2013 OHIO Youth Advisory Board Officers

President John Davis of Greene County
Media Spokesperson Arthur Vincent Miller III of Montgomery County
Secretary Aleigha Pearson-Davis of Lucas County
Parliamentarian Tabitha Copas of Guernsey County
Treasurer Shatasha Nelson of Stark County

*Not pictured:  Vice President Alex McFarland, who will be serving out the second year of his two-year term.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Updates from the Allen County Youth Advisory Board

Bonnie Monford and Victoria Westrick

The Allen County Youth Advisory Board is dedicated to giving back to their community, devoted to building successful lives for themselves, and determined to shatter stigmas and stereotypes when it comes to foster care.

  • On September 22, 2012, Allen County YAB members and adult supporters participated in a Breast Cancer 5K Walk, in order to raise funding and promote awareness of this important issue. 
  • On October 12, 2012, the Vice President of the Allen County Youth Advisory Board was adopted, at age 17. Our young people deserve forever families, forever support, and forever love.   
  • On October 27, 2012, the Allen County YAB will be assisting Perry United Methodist Church in their food giveaway.

Monday, October 8, 2012

NW Ohio Youth Advisory Board in the News

Photo of Marcus Henry from his recent interview for the Toledo Streets publication.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Planning ahead for the 2013 Connecting the Dots Conference

Connecting the Dots From Foster Care to A Successful Adulthood

An Article by Arthur Vincent Miller III:

What happens when a child has no place to call home?   This is a question that I have asked myself several times, while being in and out of foster care. My name is Arthur V. Miller, named after my uncle. I was born into a loving family despite the absence of my dad on April 19th, 1990 but like most families there were problems. In the beginning of the year of 1998 my uncle whom I was close to was shot and killed and I had to experience my first loss with no one to help me handle it. Due to my behavior change in school, Montgomery County Children Services (MCCS) had gotten involved and on February 13th, 1998 it was decided that I would be a part of the foster care system. Out of the five children my mother had I was the first to be placed in care.

Where are the lines to connect the dots for young people in and from foster care?  Can I find connection with my biological family – or through people who can relate to me and what I have experienced in the foster care system?  My foster care experience was originally expected to only last one month but, thanks to the continuing investigation of MCCS on my family, they found it best to keep me in care.  I initially had a hard time coping in several foster homes, and I did not find the correct environment that I could call home until I was 16 years old. 

I came to the home of a loving married couple I considered to be angels named Alma & Lamont Turner. They lived in Dayton, Ohio and had been foster parents for over 20 years and currently had 2 other foster children living with them. A loving home, people I could call family, a place where I did not feel alone and video games to match - what more could a kid ask for… I am now 22 years old and still in contact with The Turners and their family. Even today their family and they themselves treat me as a relative, blood or not. After meeting them I never felt alone again!

These are the connections I want for my brothers and sisters in and from foster care. And this is why I advocate for more opportunities like the Connecting the Dots conference, that focus on uniting counties and foster care youth from all over Ohio.

The 2012 Connecting the Dots Conference for Foster CareTeens and Young Adults took place on Friday, August 3rd in Columbus, Ohio. This conference was made possible by the favorable response of ODJFS Director Michael Colbert to the Top Five Asks expressed by the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.  Ohio YAB Facilitators played a key role in conference-planning; Lisa Dickson served as Lead Facilitator, with the ever-amazing Doris Edelmann doing lots of work behind the scenes.

The primary purpose of the Connecting the Dots Conference was to connect Ohio foster care teens/young adults with Education, Employment, Health, Housing, Permanency and Youth Voice in Court. Conference. Registration was free, due to support from ODJFS, PCSAO, and the Ohio Youth Advisory Board. Archie Griffin's Keynote was made possible due to Director Colbert and the ODJFS Office of Families and Children.  ODMH and the ENGAGE initiative funded the entire cost of audiovisual materials for this event.

The 200 youth who attended the Connecting the Dots Conference not only got the chance to meet, explore, and befriend other young people of similar experiences, but also attend workshops to prepare them for the adult life that lies ahead… The event as a whole was focused on building the knowledge and resources of youth in and out of foster care, while empowering them to want to do and be better in society.

The 200 youth who attended the conference had the opportunity to browse through over a thousand clothing donations, as part of the Suits for Success initiative. To prepare for the Suits for Success area, Clothing Drives had been held at Ohio State Bar Foundation, the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the ODJFS Office for Workforce Development, Office of Unemployment Compensation, and Office of Families and Children. Many young people left the conference with full-piece suits and other professional attire that they could use in seeking future employment.

When it comes to the 2012 Connecting the Dots Conference for Foster Care Teens and Young Adults, it is the youth perceptions regarding the day went that are most important. Here are some quotes from youth evaluations: 
  • Please keep this going, I love every bit of it. I feel and see that even people that don’t know me would like to see me succeed in life, and that gives me all the tools I need to keep my head up and stick to my road of success.
  • I really liked the connecting the dots conference because I know there is other people out there like me
  • I enjoyed myself and I’m glad that I came. A lot of teens should come.
  • I think every course I did was great and I think they should be repeated next time
  •  I received the right help
  • I feel more confident about my future
  • I would like to come to these each year
  • I would be glad to come back next year and be one of the speakers and put forth my ideas to reach out to children that grew up like me

The event ended with the voices of current and former foster youth. Youth participants on the Youth Panel and during the Youth Speak-Out shared encouragement with their brothers and sisters of the foster care system. Things like this encouraged several people to say: “I can’t wait to see you next year” to other youth – indicating that they felt at home and that, in this case, they were not alone.

Foster care youth are often judged based on statistics or hasty generalizations – but the truth is, we’re pretty cool. Similar to teens or young adults who have not been through the system, we are planning for our future and looking for a place to call home.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Columbus Dispatch Editorial About the 2012 Connecting the Dots Conference

Columbus Dispatch Editorial About the 2012 Connecting the Dots Conference:

Let's keep "paving the way" to improve outcomes for the next generation of foster care youth!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

2012 Connecting the Dots Conference ~ Youth Feedback

When it comes to the 2012 Connecting the Dots Conference for Foster Care Teens and Young Adults, it is the YOUTH perceptions regarding the day went that are most important.

These are some of the comments from evaluations submitted by the 200 youth in attendance at the conference:
  • Please keep this going, I love every bit of it. I feel and see that even people that don’t know me would like to see me succeed in life, and that gives me all the tools I need to keep my head up and stick to my road of success. 
  • I loved it ☺ 
  • I liked everything 
  • It was really good 
  • Loved everything 
  • I really liked the connecting the dots conference because I know there is other people out there like me 
  • Great conference!! I learned a lot. 
  • I loved it 
  • I love the whole event 
  • I really enjoyed the whole thing
  • I enjoyed myself and I’m glad that I came. A lot of teens should come. 
  • I loved being here and would come back again 
  • All the classes helped me a lot and I really feel that I have learned some important things today 
  • A very fun event! 
  • Enjoyed myself 
  • It was a nice lesson in all – the Suits are one my favorite lessons 
  • It was a very good experience 
  • It was a fun learning experience that I hope to be a part of again
  • Positive 
  • A very enlightening event  
  • I think every course I did was great and I think they should be repeated next time (referring specifically to Financial Aid resources, Keeping Your Life in Balance, Job Interview Role-Plays) 
  • I think they did a good job with giving out information 
  • Had a great time. Food was good. 
  • I thought it was all very helpful. I learned a lot at all of the events 
  • I loved everything about it 
  • Love to listen to the outlook of what others had to say about their experience and how they will help foster children to voice what is best for them 
  • It was very fun, useful and organized 
  • I really enjoyed all the classes 
  • I think this is a good program 
  • Great program 
  • I think that this is a great program. Thank you. 
  • It was fun and exciting
  • Had a good time 
  • I had a great time 
  • I think it was a great day overall 
  • I would love to come again. Everything was helpful. 
  • I would be glad to come back next year and be one of the speakers and put forth my ideas to reach out to children that grew up like me
  • Very good turnout. Staff was very nice. 
  • I want to thank you for your time and helpfulness
  • It was a fun event and I hope to do it again. 
  • I like all of the workshops that I attended – they were fun but very helpful.
  •  I received the right help
  • I feel more confident about my future 
  • I would like to come to these each year 
One young lady just wrote "Thanks" on the evaluation, over and over again, for each workshop category, ending with “Thanks so much” and a heart at the end.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What's Your Motivation and Vision?

One day, a traveler came across three stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked each man, one by one, what he was doing.

  •  The first man said, “I’m earning my pay: we have to get a certain number by end of day.” 
  •  The second man said, “I’m the best stonecutter here; I’m faster and better than others.” 
  •  The third man looked up at the sky with vision and purpose, and said,“I’m building a cathedral.”    

What’s Your Stone in the Wall? 
During the July 2012 Ohio Youth Advisory Board meeting, participating youth filled out template with their personal vision for making a difference.

Here are some of their responses...

  • "Never forget: "Nothing about us without us" ~ Jackie W.  (ally of the foster care movement)
  • "Form a partnership with youth and see them as a resource and learn from them!" ~ Rebecca H. (ally of the foster care movement)
  • "Empower youth to develop their skills and get more involved in child welfare. My vision is to have younger youth getting involved so that they can advocate and become well-rounded about the system, so that they can build on the difference we made and make even more and even better changes than we did." ~ Active youth advisory board member

  • "To teach children how to dance and also become a social worker. Make sure that all children I encounter have a dream and will never be afraid to follow it, because everyone is important no matter what their dreams are." ~ John D. 
  • "To change the outlook of foster care by showing that everyone has a path to walk down with a choice." ~ Katelen B. 
  • "Break the status quo, and make the transition from foster care to adulthood as easy and fair as possible. Empower youth to share their voices with boldness. Change the outlook that society has on foster care. We are not where we came from -- we are where we are going!" ~ unsigned
  • "Have a plan for all kids coming into foster care so that they will not have to go through what I went through. I want foster youth who have been through the system to step up and make a change for other youth in the system. Because as the vision says, us foster youth can and will make a difference." ~ Latrelle S.

  • "I want to be a lawyer so that I can help other foster children find a good home to live in." ~ Terry K.
  • "Help all youth find a home with trust by telling adoptive parents that no one is perfect, they just need to be a friend to foster youth in need." ~ Alexander F.
  • "To be the best father I can be" (breaking the cycle of foster care) ~ Cory G.
  • "Use my story to put myself in people's shoes." ~ Javon J. 
  • "Talk to kids that are in the system and try to give them advice in how to deal with certain things and people and how to get to where they want to be in life." ~ Michaela B. 
  • "Give other youth a voice and opportunities to speak out." ~ Destiny W. 

  • "To change the opinions and view of the foster care system, and help people understand what it is really like" ~ Victoria W.
  • "To be a leader and lead by example." ~  Lisa H.
  •  "Help others continue to better themselves and never give up, just like I will never give up. My vision is to be a foster care alumni that everyone remembers because they would see that I tried and worked to make a difference for youth in foster care." ~ Dominique J.
  • "To make a difference in others' lives and help others who need help." ~ Kaytie R.
  • "Be a mother for those who do not have a mother (when I am older)." ~ Kia W.

  • "Changing school policies that penalize foster kids when they move from one home to another by not allowing them to continue to participate in team sports" ~ Zachary M.
  • "Help foster parents and social workers better serve youth." ~ Thora George
  • "Normalizing foster care. Closing the gap between regular teens and foster teens." ~ Alegha P.
  • "Change the way things are and the way they have to be. Create a lifestyle of foster care, not a system." ~ Adrian M.
  • "Encourage others to be more understanding. Impact children all over the world greatly. Help others help themselves." ~ Brianna C. 

  • "To go to college for Criminal Justice, minoring in Music Education. I also plan to start a nonprofit business for underprivileged youth, both in and out of foster care. I hope to mentor youth who have no stable mentor in their lives."  ~ Vinney M.
  • "Help myself in order to help others. Talk to other youth and engage them. Go to college and pursue my career. Gain knowledge and progress. Grow!!!" ~ Michael B. 
  • "Maker sure every youth in Ohio hears my story and can be encouraged by it. Also, so they can have faith to move on with their life through any trials." ~ De'Stanie W. 
  • "Show people that I can change my life and show that I'm not going to be a lifer." - H. C.
  • "Gain in knowledge and process, and grow. Keep in touch with all the connections I made and keep networking with the YAB and other groups even after I age out" ~ Dominique J. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mahoning County Youth Advisory Board

Congratulations, Mahoning County Youth Advisory Board Officers:

  • President Jawan Johnson 
  • Vice President De’Stanie Wright 
  • Media Spokesperson Latrelle Stanford 
  • Secretary Monique Robinson 
  • Parliamentarian Shauntiara Hardy 
  • Treasurer Rashan Bell 
And, Allen, an incredibly philosophical young man who loves animals, and showed great determination during the election process.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Interview With Amy Eaton of ODJFS

Spotlight on OFC’s Guiding Principles in Action: Amy Eaton

This month’s principle, “OFC seeks and supports strategies to strengthen the voices of youth and families for its work,” is not one that always comes naturally. In addition to stepping outside traditional methods of outreach, we must make an effort to present and capture information in a way that makes sense to those who don’t readily understand the complexities of child welfare policy and programming. The OFC Placement Team (located in the Substitute Care/Permanency Section) is striving to incorporate this principle into its daily work.
This month, we’re featuring Section Chief Amy Eaton, who has taken a leadership role in developing programming that promotes positive youth development. Amy supervises the human developer staff who are responsible for writing all policy that is relevant to children in foster care from birth to age 21. 

“Amy’s presentation during a statewide youth advisory board won the hearts of youth in the audience,” said Lisa Dickson of Ohio’s chapter of Foster Care of America. “She was brief and to the point as she expressed her dedication and commitment to listen to the voices of youth, and welcomed their firsthand insights regarding child welfare policies.” We spoke with Amy to ask her about this experience.
Q. What is the picture for youth aging out of foster care?
A. Every year in Ohio, 1,000 to 1,300 youth age out of foster care. Nationwide, a third of youth who age out of foster care have dropped out of school, and a third are or have been incarcerated. Almost a quarter have experienced homelessness, and almost half of the girls have been pregnant. Half are unemployed or underemployed and living three times lower than the national poverty level. Over one-half report at least one mental health problem, and a third are in dire need of health care coverage. These youth are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as Iraq war veterans.
Q. What have you learned by attending OYAB meetings?
A. So many things. First, there is a stark distance between the youth I hear and the statistics I read. I am so impressed every single time by the maturity, thoughtfulness and sheer likability of the youth I meet through OYAB.
I also am struck by how much I assume I know, and how this often turns around when I listen to youth describe their successes and challenges. For example, the topic of drivers’ licenses is a huge issue for youth. I think we often assume this is related to youths’ universal desire to drive, but when I listen to these articulate young people reflect on the importance of a driver’s license, I am reminded that — in addition to all the teenage motivations — they also are looking ahead to issues of housing, education, employment and maintaining a connection to familiar adults.
Q. Not everyone has the good fortune to attend OYAB. What would you suggest instead?
A. I would love to see every PCSA consider starting a local YAB. The benefit to the youth is so important. These boards create a sense of community and give youth-in-care an opportunity to engage with bright and successful young adults who have navigated the child welfare system and are living meaningful lives. I think these foster care alumni beget other success. They give courage.
Q. You sound like a YAB convert.
A. I am. And, from a selfish standpoint, I think that the YAB really benefits programming that I support. It is one more way to identify those youth who might especially benefit from the services we can provide to support educational and professional development.
I also want to encourage caseworkers and supervisors to take advantage of the new Ohio Child Welfare Training Program course that we have developed, called the Youth Development Curriculum. This includes representatives from OYAB to help teach others how to work with older youth. There is an exercise called “Mind Field” that I think is profound. It reminded me that it is not the loudest voice that gets heard; youth gravitate toward the quiet voice that nurtures. I think we tend to shout.

Q. What one thing do you think caseworkers can do to help youth transition to independence?
A. Start earlier. Our rules require that preparation for independent living begins at 16, but two years is a really short time to accomplish all that needs to occur. There is nothing that prohibits our work from beginning at 14, for example. These are skills that all young adults need, regardless of where they reside.
Q. Anything else?
A. I am very much involved in community service, especially a group called Jack and Jill. So much of what that group is founded on resonates in my job, but I try to incorporate the tenets they project: To create a medium of contact for children, which will simulate their growth and development, and seek for ALL children the same advantages we desire for our own.
Q. You’ll be happy to know that Doris Edelman from Montgomery County Children Services Board says you have “intentional listening skills that allow youth to feel comfortable to speak honestly.”
A. That feels good. I hope people know that even though OFC staff don’t often have direct contact with youth and families, we care.

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.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lucas County Youth Advisory Board

Congratulations, Lucas County Youth Advisory Board Officers:
  • President Marcus Henry
  • Vice President Daniel Sauceda
  • Media Spokesperson Jonathon Harrison
  • Parliamentarian Devon Witcher
  • Alumni Liaison, Derek Biggers

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stark County YAB: Life After Foster Care

From the time of the Stark County youth advisory board’s inception, foster care youth involved in the board have expressed the desire to improve outcomes for young people "aging out" of foster care.

Stark County foster care youth have been recognized on a national basis:
2010 FosterClub All-Star, Jeremie Austin-Brown
2010 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader, Rico Rushin

In 2011, the Stark County Youth Advisory Board sponsored a training called "Finding Your Way to Success: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty." This training was a five-week series, and 28 local foster care youth/young adults attended. This training was a huge success, and will be repeated in 2012.

Stark County foster care alumna Richard Rushin presented at a South Dakota conference of Reclaiming Youth International.

In 2012, the Stark County YAB has invested in:
  • Purchasing voice recorders so the youth can practice public speaking, and prepare for an upcoming speaking engagement in April: Presenting to 165 Children Services' workers at Stark County's Spring Staff Meeting.
  • Purchasing a laptop for the Board

In the words of Julie Hayslip, one of Stark County's adult supporters, "This is our most active excited board ever! Our youth not only meet on Fridays from 4-6pm but they have chosen to start meeting on their own every Monday at our local library!! They are working on business cards, they are putting together a brochure and writing a formal request to attend the NILA conference!

"They are planning on sponsoring a Life Book Training for the kids in custody. They have elected officers. They officially have a YAB room here at our agency and we are going to get furniture and wall art and even have a YAB logo they created that they want painted on the wall.

"They are also interested in starting a mentoring program for younger kids in care. This is on their To Do list!"

Representatives from the Stark County Youth Advisory Board were recently featured on a Channel 3 News story that discussed the struggles youth have when they emancipate.

Lorain County YAB: Leadership Lorain County

Lorain County foster care youth/young adults and supportive staff have a powerful history of statewide leadership including serving in the following positions for the Ohio Youth Advisory Board:
  • 2009 Ohio YAB Treasurer Laura Johnson
  • 2009 Ohio YAB Parliamentarian James Burge
  • 2009 Secretary Katrina Gallimore
  • 2010 Ohio YAB Vice President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney
  • 2010 Ohio YAB Treasurer, James Burge
  • 2010 Ohio YAB Treasurer Krystal Robinson
  • 2011 Ohio YAB President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney
Foster care youth and young adults in Lorain County continue to live out that legacy of leadership on a local level...
In 2011, Lorain County Leadership was involved in the following local activities:
  • Organizing a donation of holiday ornaments/purchased ornaments/made ornaments
  • Volunteering their time at a local nursing home at the holidays to hand out the ornaments
  • Participating in the Lorain County Children Services Holiday party for children in foster care. They handed out presents and helped organize children to see Santa at the party.
  • Developing a Holiday party for all of the Independent Living youth to participate in.
The Board developed their own FaceBook page, and organized for presenters to come to the agency and teach Leadership skills to all of Lorain County foster care youth (LaTasha Watts and Cedric Brown).

On a statewide/regional level,  Lorain County foster care youth and young adults participated in the 2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Event for Foster Care Youth and Alumni. They also attended the NE Ohio FCAA Thanksgiving Dinner and encouraged many other youth to participate in this activity.

 Upcoming activities of Lorain County Leadership include the following:
  • Participating in the “Wear Blue to Work” campaign to draw awareness to National Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • Participating in the development, creation and implementation of a flash mob during the upcoming local family fun day at the mall. This flash mob will include caseworkers, foster care youth and young adults, friends, family, and other supporters/advocates for foster youth. They will be doing a dance. All of the members will have blue shirts to draw attention to Stop Child Abuse.
Current initiatives also include:
  • Participating and assisting in the upcoming Purple Project conference. Youth have been asked for input on some of the ideas for the conference and will be volunteering to work the registration tables.
  • Researching colleges/vocational programs and setting up college visits for all of the youth to participate in.
  • Participating in discussion about recruiting foster parents for teens. Have identified the necessary characteristics of these individuals. Currently brainstorming regarding what to develop and implement to be successful on recruiting foster parents for teens.
  • Discussion of sending some of the Youth Leadership members to the NILA conference.

Summit County YAB: Leaders of Tomorrow

Summit County foster care youth and young adults aspire to be the "Leaders of Tomorrow."

Participation and involvement in the Summit County Youth Advisory Board benefits foster care youth, and young adults with a foster care history, by building camaraderie and facilitating an atmosphere of empowerment and improved self-esteem.

One active member of this board found it easier to adjust to her new adoptive home, due to having positive support from her peers. Another young person described YAB involvement as “the experience of a lifetime.”

Through involvement on the board, foster care youth have opportunities that they would not have otherwise. They are viewed as difference-makers, rather than simply as clients or recipients of services. During their presentation at a local CASA Dinner, for example, they were considered “honored guests.”

In the meantime, local organizations who invite Summit County’s “Leaders of Tomorrow” to present at their events are impressed by the fact that youth conduct themselves with poise and maturity, address each question with honest and insightful answers, and express appreciation to front-line staff and CASA volunteers for the work that they do...

In 2011, the Leaders of Tomorrow were involved in:
  •  Leading monthly trainings for all court staff
  •  Speaking engagement during Adoption Advocacy Day in Columbus  
  •  Presenting for agency staff during the Placement and Permanency Planning Retreat in December
Several of their members have also participated in the Crossover Youth Permanency Model discussion at Summit County Juvenile Court. 

Recent activities of the Leaders of Tomorrow include:
  • Regular trainings at their local juvenile court for CASA volunteers
  • Foster parent training for Summit County and two private agencies
The leadership team is currently preparing for:
  • An April speaking engagement for the Child and Family Awareness Symposium
  • A presentation for a May foster parent conference
  • A June training for all the social services staff at Summit County Children Services  (caseworkers, supervisors, social work assistants, etc)
  • A speaking engagement for the Child & Family Awareness Symposium next month.
The Leaders of Tomorrow are being honored by the United Way of Summit County in April as a part of their volunteer celebration.

They were also chosen as a possible recipient of a grant through Leadership Akron, a collective group of active community stakeholders.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fairfield County Youth Advisory Board

Congratulations, Fairfield County Youth Advisory Board Officers:
  • President Kaytie Roger
  • Vice President Kia Williams
  • Media Spokesperson Tyler Reigle
  • Secretary Shyanna Fritz
  • Parliamentarian Destiny Williams
  • Treasurer Cory Griffin

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Congratulations, Alex McFarland

Congratulations to Alex McFarland for being selected to serve on the inaugural National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council, headed up by FosterClub and Foster Care Alumni of America.

Alex currently serves as Legislative Liaison of Foster Care Alumni of America Ohio chapter and Vice President of the Ohio Youth Advisory Board.

The majority of council members are between the ages of 16 and 24 at the start of their service. Two seats are reserved specifically for older alumni.

Requirements for Eligibility:
  • Must have spent time in out-of-home care (may include foster care, residential treatment, kinship care, legal guardianship)
  • Demonstrate capacity to participate in a leadership position involving child welfare policy (for example, through participation on a Youth Advisory Board or Youth Council)
  • Be able to articulate ideas and solutions regarding youth issues and concerns 
  • Have the ability to interact constructively with peers in a group setting

Alex's Qualifications:

Alexander McFarland has served as President of Ohio's statewide foster care youth advocacy board (Ohio YAB) for two years. He currently serves as Vice President.

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 currently supports the continued existence of not only the statewide board, but county and regional foster youth advisory boards as well. Alex 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 three years. He participated in the 2008 FCAA Alumni Leadership Institute and the 2009 anniversary of Chafee funding. Alex was chosen by Ohio's First Lady to represent the needs of Ohio's foster care youth on Governor Strickland's 2010 Steering Committee to support Youth and Young Adults in Transition. In 2010, Alex was chosen as a FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader.

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 on April 28, 2009, in order to promote Ready to Launch, a reminder to Ohio legislators of a front-end investment in transitional youth.

Alex recently met with the Ohio Attorney General on December 15, 2011 to encourage his office to partner with the Ohio Board of Regents in order to fund a full-time position to support Ohio Reach, a statewide initiative to increase the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from college.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Upcoming Ohio YAB Events in 2012


March 10, Fairfield County Youth Advisory Board Training
  • Supporting Fairfield County in creating a local youth advisory board
March 12, OCWTP Trainer Event
Crowne Plaza North, 6500 Doubletree Ave, Columbus OH 43229
From 9 am – 4:30 pm
  • Networking opportunity for emancipated foster care youth who wish to become involved in the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, including the possibility of becoming certified child welfare trainers
March 16, Stark County Youth Advisory Board Training
306 Market Ave North, Canton OH 44702
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
  • Supporting Stark County in continuing to develop their youth advisory board


April 19, Ohio Youth Advisory Board Quarterly Meeting
Viaquest, 525 Metro Place North,Suite #300, Dublin OH 43017
From 11 am – 2 pm

April 21, Lucas County Youth Advisory Board Training
705 Adams St., Toledo, OH 43604
Time TBA
  • Supporting Lucas County in creating a local youth advisory board

May 1-2, OACCA Advocacy Conference
Doubletree Hotel Columbus/Worthington,175 Hutchinson Ave., Columbus, OH 43235
Additional details forthcoming regarding time; lunch for youth will be provided
  • Youth speakers who have experienced private agency placement (treatment foster homes, group homes, residential centers)will be invited to share their voices, while keeping the name of the placement anonymous.
May 5, SAFY Conference Columbus
Stonybrook United Methodist Church, 485 Cherry Bottom Road, Gahanna, OH 43230
From 9 am – 5:00 pm
  •  Workshops for foster parents and foster care youth
May 7, Fourth annual Ohio Reach Summit
Doubletree Hotel, 175 Hutchinson Avenue, Columbus, Ohio, United States 43235
From 9 am – 5:00 pm
  • Workshop presentations will strive to pair a foster care teen/emancipated youth with a co-presenter to discuss topics related to increasing the number of foster care youth who enroll in and graduate from higher education.
Hancock Co. JFS, 7814 Co. Rd. 140, Findlay, OH 45839
From 9 am – 1 pm               (Presentation from10:15-12:15) • 
  • Supporting NW Ohio counties in creating local youth advisory boards, and sharing information with them about the Ohio Reach initiative
May 12, Franklin County CASA
Additional details forthcoming
  • Currently seeking youth panelists who reside in Franklin County


June 21-22, Purple Project Conference ~ Cleveland, OH
Student Center at Cleveland State University
2121 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115       
  • Ohio YAB President Cieria Rodriguez-Toney will be assisting with this event

July 19, Ohio Youth Advisory Board Quarterly Meeting
Viaquest, 525 Metro Place North,Suite #300, Dublin OH 43017
From  11 am – 2 pm

July 23-25, CDF's National Conference
Underground Freedom Center, 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Time TBA
  • One or more workshop/panel presentations by the Ohio YAB

Sept., 3-7, Daniel Memorial NILA conference, including pre-conference youth activities
Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia, 30303
Time TBA
  • One or more workshop/panel presentations by Ohio YAB representatives
  • County boards are welcome to utilize their funding allocation so that their youth can participate in this event


Oct. 18, Ohio Youth Advisory Board Quarterly Meeting
Viaquest, 525 Metro Place North,Suite #300, Dublin OH 43017
From  11 am – 2 pm

Oct. 24-25, PCSAO conference
Doubletree Hotel Columbus/Worthington,175 Hutchinson Ave., Columbus, OH 43235
Time TBA
  • One or more workshop/panel presentations by the Ohio YAB

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 and 2013 Ohio YAB Strategic Plan

On January, 14, 2012, during the Ohio Youth Advisory Board Officers Retreat, generously hosted by the Dave Thomas Foundation, Ohio YAB officers crafted their two-year strategic plan:

On January 19, 2012, during the first quarterly Ohio YAB statewide meeting, brainstorming sessions included youth/young adult representatives from Athens, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Greene, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Portage, Summit and Vinton counties.

Their insights are documented in these Youth Proposed Action Steps related to each of the Strategic Plan categories: