Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ohio pilot chapter of FCAA

One of the wonderful things about the chapter designee selection process of Foster Care Alumni of America is that pilot chapters were chosen from states whose alumni groups were in various states of development.

In my state, we will be building our chapter from the grassroots level.

When I read about the success of the first outreach event in Arizona (200 people), I felt overjoyed at the size of their turnout – and a bit intimidated.

I recognized that the size and success of their first endeavor was rooted in years of time and effort invested by members of this group, such as partnerships and relationships built by In My Shoes.

How could we emulate their efforts in Ohio? I contacted two helpful and knowledgeable Arizona resources to ask for their insights. They shared practical advice on how to partner with child welfare professionals by coming alongside of them, in order to open doors for future collaboration.

In Ohio, FCAA chapter designees have experienced challenges in our efforts to connect and transform.

Ohio has 88 diverse counties, with no statewide safety net for people in and from foster care.

In the past year, the Ohio foster care system has faced numerous challenges. The murder of an autistic boy at the hands of his foster parents has led to intense scrutiny of one county’s foster care system. Another county has been audited and accused of misuse of federal funds. A third county received a grievance from the local NAACP chapter, due to racial disparities in foster care.

Ohio Chapter Designees of FCAA benefited greatly from national membership director Misty Stenslie’s visit this week, and were reminded that Ohio’s strengths and opportunities are greater than the challenges that we face.

New partnering agencies:
1.) Young Adult Community Development is a direct service organization, led by an alumna of foster care.

2.) The Public Children Services Association of Ohio has recently established a Founder’s Group of foster youth from across the state.

3.) Lighthouse Youth Services is in touch with many of their alumni, who often have a passion to share their voice and positively impact the foster care system.

4.) Youth Advocate Services has begun holding meetings of foster care alumni in an "ethics committee" led by Heidi Evans.

In three days, the Ohio pilot site has increased its membership, added to the list of its partnering agencies and decided upon our first two tangible goals.

Alumni and allies in Ohio will:
1.) Create a “foster yellow pages” of resources throughout the state.

2.) Design trainings for foster parents and/or biological parents, based upon alumni insight.

Foster Yellow Pages
This idea was first suggested by Gayle Loyola.

This idea has multiple benefits:
- Connecting foster care youth/alumni with resources
- Promoting the services of child welfare agencies
- Assisting foster parents/youth/alumni seeking resources
- Identifying gaps in services.

Ohio allies and alumni of foster care will undoubtedly offer valuable insights.

Meanwhile, as chapter designee of Ohio, I feel much less alone. My outreach efforts up until this point were less successful in terms of generating a response -- and the leadership of the pilot chapter of FCAA in Ohio cannot rest on one person's shoulders.

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