Sunday, April 30, 2017

National Safe Place program - do you know your local Safe Place?

What is a Safe Place?    It's a local place that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, that youth can go if they are being abused or if they have (or are tempted to) run away. Safe Place is a national program - visit their website at to identify local help in your area.

Due to Ronnie Dotson and his leadership, he and I and a group of foster youth visited Huckleberry House yesterday. This is where homeless and runaway youth in our area are transported to if they go to a Safe Place in need of help.

It matters that today's young people throughout Ohio know about available resources when they don't feel safe in their own homes - including unsafe foster homes. It made me incredibly happy that two of our youth participants have stayed at Huckleberry House before, and they both had very positive things to say about their experience. I still wish I had got a photo of their kitchen - it was awesome, but it was also being cleaned at the time.

Here are the notes on how they said they would describe Huck House to other youth...

What to expect:

  • "Comfort" 
  • "Safe" 
  • "Fun" 
  • "Caring" 
  •  "Respectful" 
  • "Always have a nice meal" 
  • Xbox 1, PS4 and PS2 
  • School accommodations: COTA bus pass to district 
  • "Nice staff - friendly people" 
  • "Outings - fun weekend activities" 
  • "Somewhere to sleep" 
Additional things that we noticed during the tour:
  • The TV room was very cozy, and youth looked very comfortable watching the movie together 
  • I really liked the chalkboard walls that teens could write on 
  • It was very touching that many of them signed their name: "_________ was here." 
  • The music room, with a guitar and piano, was a great creative touch 
It's an impressive legacy that Huckleberry House has been around since 1970. It was interesting to hear the story behind it -- that teens would run away and hide at college campuses, because they could blend in with other youth. Kudos to Huck House for their dedication to surveying teens in order to include their voice on things like allowing cell phones.  (Yes, cell phones are definitely allowed).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Melissa Stroud, 2017 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader

Congratulations to Melissa Stroud for being recognized as Ohio’s 2017 FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader.

She is the current Vice President and former Media Spokesperson of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board, which exists to be knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that affect all youth who have or will experience out-of-home care.

Melissa is known throughout the state for her leadership skills, maturity, and strong sense of responsibility. In her role, Melissa has:

  • Facilitated quarterly statewide foster youth advisory meetings
  • Shared her insights during the 2016 ODJFS All Staff Meeting
  • Celebrated a troop of Girl Scouts who chose to dedicate their efforts towards foster care
  • Led a youth workshop during the 2016 Fostering Pathways to Success conference 
  • Served as a youth panelist for the 2016 statewide Ohio Fostering Connections Symposium
  • Participated in Three Days on the Hill in 2016 and 2017

We are incredibly proud of her for the poise and maturity she brought to her multiple newspaper interviews, for the excellent job she consistently does in Washington DC, and, most of all, for the responsibility she has demonstrated in over the past two years in consistently following through on all her officer commitments.

At her local high school, Melissa is involved in the National Honor Society. She volunteers with Link Crew, a program that brings together high school juniors and seniors to mentor incoming freshman during their first year of high school.  She will be graduating high school in June, and plans to attend Cleveland State University to study Urban Affairs.