Thursday, November 25, 2021

Ohio Legal Help - for foster care youth and young adults

The OHIO YAB is currently partnering with Ohio Legal Help, a two-year old non-profit organization that was established by the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation, the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio’s legal aids, and other stakeholders in Ohio’s legal system. 

Ohio Legal Help plans to add a special section on their website to support the legal needs of current and former foster youth, and has invited feedback from current and former foster youth.   

Below are the Top 14 Legal Needs that have been identified by the OHIO YAB so far:

1.) Assistance in Accessing Benefits: Such as Medicaid to age 26, Social Security and/or other benefits for which they might be eligible. And being unsure whether they are allowed to apply for food stamps if they are in Bridges or enrolled in college.

2.) Custodial Issues: Former fosters seeking to maintain custody or contact with their children.

3.) Filling Out Forms: Assistance with leases, filing taxes, understanding the FAFSA, applying for Educational Training Vouchers, etc.

4.) Housing Issues: Avoiding eviction, handling landlord-tenant disputes, and how to address unsafe housing conditions (bugs, mice, mold or lead).

5.) Identity Theft: Foster youth are at high risk for identity theft because they frequently change placements, giving an expanding group of adults access to their personal information. 

6.) Legal Citizenship: Ensuring that young people don’t emancipate from foster care and then discover that they are not legal citizens. Young people who are abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents must apply for Special Juvenile Immigrant Status before age 21. 

7.) Name Change: Seeking a legal name change in order for their last name to match that of a siblings, or in order to not reflect an adoptive family if that adoption ended in dissolution.

8.) Protection Orders: Seeking a restraining order and other protections, when trying to escape an abusive relationship during young adulthood.

9.) Records: Desire to access their case file, ICCA form, school records, medical records, adoption records and/or desire to expunge a juvenile record.

10.) Rights Violations: Wanting to ensure that a prior abuser is no longer able to harm others.

11.) Sibling Connections: Assistance in contacting one or more siblings from whom they were separated.

12.) Vital Records: Assistance for young adults who do not have a birth certificate, Social Security card, and/or photo ID.

13.) Wage Issues: Young people who do not receive payment for work they did, and are unsure of how to seek recourse.

14.) Youth Voice in Court: Desire to have a voice in their case plan, transition plan, placement decisions, and/or staff annual reviews, and to be notified about and allowed to attend hearings and communicate with their judge. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Monday, November 8, 2021

OHIO YAB Statement about Foster Youth Rights in Ohio Administrative Code

The Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board is a statewide organization of young people (aged 14-24) who have experienced foster care. The OHIO YAB exists to be the knowledgeable statewide voice that influences policies and practices that impact youth who have or will experience out of home care.

As an OHIO YAB Youth Ambassador, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with ODJFS and my fellow foster youth on the wording of the Foster Youth Bill of Rights in Ohio Administrative Code. We appreciate ODJFS incorporating our feedback, including ordering youth rights by triage by putting the most vital rights first. We also thank ODJFS for agreeing to require that these rights be clearly posted in congregate care facilities such as group homes and residential facilities.

My fellow Officers and I are proud to stand by our work to ensure that these rights are clear to youth and everyone caring for them. We want to make sure that every youth gets a copy and understands their rights, and that these rights are followed. This is the first step in the right direction on our ultimate path to create a Youth Ombudsman Office to give youth a safe place to report and make the system a safer environment for those who have to navigate it.

A quote stands out to me by American author Alfie Khon: "Children, after all, are not just adults in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously." This is what we are doing here, and I am glad to be a part of it. Thank you again for this opportunity. This is a win for both ODJFS and for those in the foster system, because it will give not only youth, but also caseworkers an opportunity to make the system better.

~ Raven Grice, pictured below with her fiancĂ©