Sunday, March 24, 2013

Three Days On the Hill - Celebration and Departure

Three Days On the Hill - Day Three: Legislative Visits and Fostering Change

During their visit with Becky Shipp, Health Policy Advisory to the Senate Finance Commitee, youth wondered whether there might be another way to encourage states to comply with NYTD other than cutting Chafee funds.

They worried that youth themselves will be punished by this, and their outcomes negatively impacted.

The young people greatly enjoyed this visit, and felt very "heard" and understood by Becky Shipp. Dauntea Sledge coordinated the ending of the meeting, during which each young person shared what they appreciated most about the visit. It was a powerful and beautiful experience.

The final visit of our trip was with Senator Rob Portman's new aide -- she was wowed by the young people. So much so that she spent additional time with them, beyond that which was already scheduled. She also arranged for them to be able to watch live Senate hearings.

Shalita O'Neale and the Fostering Change Network hosted an evening banquet to celebrate the success of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board's first trip to DC. Supporting organizations/alumni in attendance included Danielle Jennings of Blessed Haven and Chris Chmielewski of Foster Focus Magazine.

Three Days On the Hill - Day Two: Legislative Visits

After their training, youth representatives of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board identified four areas to learn more about during their time in DC:

  • What is the role of the federal government when it comes to transitional housing for youth "aging out" of foster care? 
  • Does the Uninterrupted Scholars Act address the differing number of credits required to graduate from high schools, and how this can negatively impact foster youth when they transfer from one high school to another? 
  • Could Title IV-E funds ever be expanded to allow them to be used for the training of youth -- not just adults? 
  • Is there another way to promote compliance with NTYD besides having states lose part of their Chafee dollars for noncompliance? Could there be another penalty? Rather than one that risks negatively impacting the success of foster youth? 
It was very educational for youth to be able to dialogue with federal officials. And the representatives, in turn, valued discussions with our young people.

1.) U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi's office was already supportive and aware of the issues that youth discussed -- with one exception:

  • They were not aware that the flexibility of IV-E funds still would not allow them to be used to train youth -- only to train adults. 
  •  One OHIO YAB Officers, Tabitha Copas, compared this to the game of "Telephone" -- her question was: "Why train a foster parent or caseworker to train youth about independent living? Why not train youth directly themselves, by excellent, talented trainers?" 
  • Tabitha added that, as it is, busy caseworkers do this in addition to all their other responsibilities, and the quality and consistency of training for youth differs throughout Ohio. 
2.) U.S. Congressman Michael Turner from Dayton took a special interest in discussing housing for transitional youth. He asked many questions of young people about their personal experiences, and mentioned that he was meeting with a representative from his local Metropolitan Housing Authority later in the afternoon, and wanted to talk about setting aside housing specifically for foster youth / alumni and making them a priority.

3.) Representative John Boehner's office was the third and final visit of the day. We appreciated the Speaker of the House's willingness to set aside time during this period of busy House negotiation in order to arrange for the youth to meet with a representative from his office. The youth were articulate and presented well and we were very proud of them.

Three Days On the Hill - Day One: Training

Youth training was facilitated by:

  • The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) 
  • Casey Family Programs 
  • The Office of Representative Karen Bass 
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 
  • The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare 
  • The Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center 
Youth participants learned about the Congressional Caucus on Foster Care, and federal funding sources for both child welfare and housing support.