Thursday, July 13, 2017

Child Welfare Funding and How States Use It


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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

This Week News: Lights, Camera... ACTION!!

Day by Day: ‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty
By Liz Thompson, This Week News, July 3, 2017.

Her mother died of cancer when she was 10. Her father was physically abusive and she was removed from the home. In foster care, she lived in an emergency shelter, an all-girls group home and a co-ed group home.

Lisa Dickson was inspired by these experiences to become an advocate for change. At 16, she was accepted into college -- her lifeline into the future.

“I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former admissions counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to financial aid and telling them, ‘This girl has no family to help her -- this girl needs grants,’ ” said Dickson, now a Westerville resident.

“It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16 -- but by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster-care (alumni) currently lead a workshop called ‘When Helping You Is Hurting Me,’ ” Dickson said.

During her time in foster care, Dickson said she often had no voice. Today, she listens to the voices of current and former foster youth. They stand side by side to improve outcomes for people in and from foster care.

Dickson considers it an honor to volunteer as communications chairwoman of Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio, and as co-facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board. She helped create both groups in 2006. Their initiatives include annual trips to Washington, D.C., to share their hard-won experiences and advocate for policy change, such as ending the “pipeline” from foster care to homelessness.

“What I don’t get is this: I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless,” Dickson said. “Why are today’s youths still aging out into homelessness? We could and should and must do better.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) created the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act as a direct result of one of those visits to Washington.

This act, with no additional spending required, allows foster-care youth who are close to “aging out” of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old.

ACTION Ohio’s Suits for Success program provides professional attire to current and former foster youths who are preparing to enter the workforce. Suits for Success needs a future storage location for donated suits. The organization welcomes suit donations on an ongoing basis. It often pairs distribution of the suits with job-interview simulations and resume practice.

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it’s not enough to know what the resources are -- they need coaching and guidance regarding how to access them effectively.”

Two such places are Capital Law School’s free Family and Youth Advocacy Center for current or former foster youths and Columbus State Community College’s Scholar Network.

“Even after graduating college, as a foster-care survivor, it can feel lonely to be ‘one of the ones who made it,’ ” Dickson said. “Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them.”

Holidays and birthdays can be lonely for current and former foster youths, when many families gather to celebrate.

“I’ve been married for 17 years and have two beloved stepdaughters, but I don’t expect them to understand what the foster-care experience was like for me,” Dickson said.

On Thanksgiving 2007, Dickson and other former foster youths from across the nation traveled to Washington to encourage the federal government to extend foster-care support to age 21. They shared Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster-care teens and alumni. Dickson serves as lead planner.

“When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster-care system, we can encourage and support one another. We celebrate each other’s success and continue to improve outcomes for the next generation.”

Much needs to be done, as an average of 150 children in Franklin County alone age out of foster care every year.

For more information, email info@fosteractionohio.org

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Thoughts on Director Comey's Testimony


It might sound weird to say this - but when I hear Former FBI Director Comey giving his legislative testimony, all I can think is that I wish I had someone like him for a father.

He is a Boy Scout of a man. He makes unpopular decisions based on his own integrity.

I would have loved to have had a father like that.

PS: 


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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Foster Care and Superpowers


Message to today's young people who are currently transitioning from foster care into young adulthood:
  • It's part of the healing process to remember and think through the memories of what we have each experienced before, during and after foster care
  • During that process, we ALSO have to move forward to survive
  • So, PART of our brain as a young adult who has experienced foster care is focused on immediate existence and future practicalities
  • While the OTHER part is sorting through the past, and finding ways to heal 

I'm not saying that this is easy - because it really isn't. But it is necessary to survive. And the aftereffect for those of us who make it is often super-resiliency.

By super-resiliency, I mean that: "I am like a weed. You can put me down anywhere, and I will likely find a way to survive -  and more than that - I will find some element of joy there. I will find a way to be happy and move forward."

 #AfterEffectOfHealingAfterFosterCare


Sunday, May 07, 2017

Definition of Stewardship

It is a great big beautiful thing to create something new, but the next step is to maintain it, year after year - because the need doesn't change based on current popularity.

Sometimes, the maintaining part bumps up against behind-the-scenes complications and all kinds of crazy politics. But we can, and will, and MUST overcome them.

And that's the definition of a weird word called "stewardship."  To be a "steward" means: the careful and responsible management of what has been entrusted to you.

We need a better word for this. Steward sounds sort of like sewage. It's not a sexy word at all.

Let's talk about other words that might better express the heart behind this effort:

- commitment
- consistency
- conscientiousness
- vision
- purpose
- responsibility

We need to talk about what it means to be in this for the long-haul.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Underpromise and Overdeliver

My husband has a saying: "Underpromise and overdeliver" -- and I can't tell you how valuable that principle is when it comes to foster care advocacy.

Our young people have experienced enough broken promises in their lives

We need to be the kind of people who KEEP our promises, and who are very careful to gauge our commitments before saying yes, so that we can truly live up to what we commit to do ❤️❤️❤️

And, if a challenge comes up that might limit our availability, our responsibility is to let others know as soon as possible.

#EndRant

Friday, March 17, 2017

Foster care is a bipartisan issue

I am heart-happy about Ohio's fifth annual Three Days on the Hill. ❤️❤️❤️

One thing really amazed and encouraged me during this year's trip to DC:

I had been anticipating and worrying that the growing political divide in our country might negatively impact our legislative visits

But there was NO difference at all between our visits with Republican vs. Democratic offices:

- They both saw foster care as a bipartisan issue.
- They both understood that our young peope who "age out" of foster care just want to build positive and productive futures
- They both totally *got* that helping a young person succeed in college/workforce meant a future taxpayer later on

When we talked about youth aging out of foster care without a savings account to afford housing... former foster youth needing to pay rent a year in advance due to having no co-signer... former foster youth being asked to pay hundreds of dollars to stay in a dorm (their only home!!) during campus breaks...

This was eye-opening to ALL offices. And they cared and were receptive to our proactive suggestions of solutions.

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