Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Things That Weigh Heavy on My Heart

These are the things that weigh heavily on my heart as I ponder how we might address them.

Ohio is in serious economic trouble right now. Our state unemployment compensation funds have been completely depleted. Ohio is one of 17 states that are now borrowing from the national trust fund to cover unemployment benefits. We are currently $1 billion in debt, and the shortfall is expected to top $3 billion by the end of 2010.

One of our counties is in a fiscal emergency: Auditor of State Mary Taylor recently placed Scioto County in fiscal emergency -- the first Ohio county ever so designated. She said the county has a combined county fund deficit of more than $3.5 million as of June 30, 2009.

Did you know that, according to CBS News, child abuse spikes during a recession?

Liquor sales are up: The Ohio Department of Commerce said Wednesday that sales of liquor continued to set records, rising to $729.9 million for FY09. When times are tough, it can seem easier to add up change to buy liquor than to face the pain, and try to be a part of a positive solution.

Have you visited the website for the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare? That organization exists because there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and the neglect and abuse of children.

Gambling is being promoted by our Governor as some sort of magic elixir to fix the budget problems. And it seems that Ohio’s children are last on his list.

At a time when the needs of foster care youth transitioning to adulthood are being recognized on federal level through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, Governor Strickland chose to cut the Ohio’s state independent living allocation by 100%.

This was after Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies successfully advocated to retain that funding allocation. Can you imagine how difficult it was to look into the faces of the young people who testified and tell them about the Governor's veto?

Now, unless Ohio complies with National Youth in Transition Database requirements, our state stands to lose up to $250,000/yr. in federal funding to help transitioning youth as well. That is $250K of Chafee funding that could be spent supporting foster care youth before, during and after transition to adulthood.

Last week, Gov. Ted Strickland issued an Executive Order to cut funding for the state's adoption assistance programs. These cuts will affect the funds that provide financial assistance for adoptive families to provide services for children with special needs (PASS, SAMS, state match for IV-E and nonrecurring adoption expenses).

All this, in addition to massive cuts regarding child protection, which have led to laying off caseworkers and increasing caseloads.

I am deeply concerned.

But I also believe that the tougher things get in our state, so far as foster care and adoption advocacy is concerned, the more important it is for us to band together and press forward. We can't give up -- because there is too much at stake. And we need to formulate a shared vision of how we can make things better.

There’s a team-building exercise in which each person uses one finger to lift something (like a table), and their combined strength makes it possible to lift that table off the ground.

I can’t lift the weight that’s on my heart all by myself.

It’s the weight of a state, and all of us who care about Ohio youth and their welfare need to come together and take collective action.

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This is fantastic, Sunny. Thanks for linking over to me. I linked to you, too. Good luck on your mission, and thanks for drawing attention to everything.
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