Sunday, July 19, 2009

Was the Governor's Veto in the Public Interest?

During Governor Strickland's 2008 Ohio Summit on Children, one of the top challenges reported by counties was lack of funding for transitional services for older youth in foster care.

The Independent Living Initiative is the only state program that provides transitional living services to foster care youth. These services include drivers' education, life skills training, job readiness preparation, and food and housing assistance.

Historically, this program was funded by a TANF earmark of 2.5M, administered by ODJFS and implemented by county children services departments. In the Governor's first version of HB1, this funding was cut entirely.

Ohio foster care youth, alumni and advocates urged the legislature to restore funding to FY 2009 levels, or establish a new, non-earmark program to replace it -- and were able to successfully advocate for it to be put back into the budget bill, at a lower amount of 1.5M.

During the process, the source of funding to support this program was transferred to the GRF (General Revenue Fund). Hence, the Governor's concerns about lack of flexibility.

However the wording of the bill as released by the HB 1 conference committee did allow for flexibility, because it stated that:

"...up to $1,500,000 in each fiscal year shall be used to provide independent living services to foster youth and former foster youth between 16 and 21 years of age."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Governor Strickland's Final Veto

Breaking News: Governor Strickland VETOED the Independent Living Initiative.

Item Number 40
On page 2900, delete the boxed text.
Section 309.45.15 Earmark for Independent Living... Read More

Quote: "This provision earmarks $1.5 million of the Children and Family Services line item for independent living services to youth. The majority of the funds in this line item are already allocated to county agencies for their use to support child welfare programs, including independent living. This earmark will constrain the county agencies ability to use the allocated funds in a flexible manner that meets each county's needs to support children. For these reasons, a veto is in the public interest."

Ohio Advocacy Efforts throughout HB 1 Budget Process

The official version of HB 1 was released earlier this week, and the Independent Living Allocation was preserved:

Of the foregoing appropriation item 600523, Children and Families
Services, up to $1,500,000 in each fiscal year shall be used to provide
independent living services to foster youth and former foster youth

between 16 and 21 years of age. Page 2900

Ohio foster care youth, alumni and allies should be proud.

Youth and alumni who experienced foster care firsthand were HEARD by the Ohio House of Representatives. We were HEARD by the Ohio Senate. We were HEARD by the conference committee.

We fought for an earmark to be amended into the bill from the very beginning. We successfully fought to maintain this funding, despite many rounds of funding cuts.

Without our efforts, this money would not have been inserted into the bill for transition age youth.

It's time to celebrate and give thanks!

1.) We are thankful to our legislators for hearing our testimony, reading our letters and maintaining this important funding allocation.

2.) We thank Mark Mecum of OACCA, Doris Edelmann of Montgomery County Children Services, Bryan Brown of Starr Commonwealth, Anita Wainwright of Mahoning County Children Services, Susan Ignelzi, and Brandi Scales, adult supporter of the OHIO YAB.

3.) We thank Nick Bates and Angela Lareviere, for taking the leadership role in facilitating Ready to Launch Day, for proudly wearing Ready to Launch stickers and for empowering YEP youth to speak out on behalf of young people throughout Ohio.

4.) We thank YEP youth, VISION Board youth, Mahoning County youth, Franklin County youth, OHIO YAB youth and FCAA Ohio alumni for sharing their voices and a strategic piece of their stories.

There truly is a foster care movement going on in Ohio...

Next Steps:
a.) Sending thank you letters to legislators, including personalizing letters to legislators who asked us thoughtful questions during our testimony and legislative office visits.

b.) Planning a shared celebration that includes foster care youth, alumni and allies from all over Ohio who were a part of this advocacy effort - including YEP youth and supporters.

c.) Meeting with Representative Sykes, in order to further reform the way that Independent Living is funded in Ohio in the future.