Friday, March 20, 2020

Appreciation for Heather Zenone

We Ohio folks had the honor and privilege of meeting with foster care alumna Heather Zenone in February. Heather is a powerful DC advocate with an eye toward improving outcomes for our population, especially in light of the current pandemic. She has been sharing our policy recommendations with the federal Ways and Means committee.

Love this recommendation from CDF

Love this recent recommendation from Children's Defense Fund national and the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition:

  • "Boost Title IV-E Chafee funds to $500 million. These additional funds could be used above and beyond what states have already locked into place for their ongoing independent living funds and services. Allow states flexibility in expanding Chafee funds for services and supports for youth including financial assistance, and employment assistance."

National strategy proposals to strengthen the child welfare safety net in response to COVID-19

Policy recommendations are being discussed behind the scenes to support young people in and from foster care, by advocates throughout the nation (including Youth Villages and Children’s Defense Fund). Some of my current favorites are listed below.

 They include recommendations that we have made. We are continuing to work on strategy proposals, in partnership with the ever-amazing Ruth Anne White of the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare.

- Waiving the 30% Chafee housing cap
- Waiving the work and education requirements for Chafee
- Doubling Chafee funds
 - Having every state extend Chafee services until age 23

Title IV-E -Waiving the Title IV-E work and education requirement for older youth in extended care beyond age 18, and the work and education requirements for Chafee
- Having every state extend foster care to age 21

Congregate Care:
 - “Addressing concerns around congregate care by promoting reductions of unnecessary group care placements to reduce viral transmission, providing access to sanitation services, supporting access to educational resources on appropriate social distancing measures, and providing access to technology and supports for virtual learning” (from the Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition)

ACTION Ohio remains concerned about lack of cell phone access for foster care youth, especially those who are in group home/residential placements, and how this might be further isolating them at this time.

Monday, March 09, 2020

Many thanks, Ohio CASA

As with any foster youth, Lisa Dickson didn’t choose the family she was born into. Instead, she was born into a family that included an abusive father – and a mother who had experienced abuse from her biological family, and eventually lost her life in a battle with cancer. During her time in foster care, Lisa was focused on building her immediate future. From the moment that Lisa transitioned from foster care to adulthood, ahead of time, at age 16, she cared both about building her future and improving outcomes for others.

Since 2006, Lisa has had the honor of working 70 hours a week. She volunteers 30 hours a week in her volunteer roles as co-facilitator of the OHIO Youth Advisory Board (the statewide voice of Ohio foster care youth ages 14-24) and Communications Chair of ACTION Ohio (the statewide voice of foster care alumni). She also works 40 hours a week in her paid job as a Children’s Librarian. Her volunteer roles are focused on informing and empowering current and former foster youth about policies and procedures, and inviting each of them to share their insights. Foster care youth, young adults and older alumni of the system are invited to advocate for what is needed when it comes to policies and resources – with the ultimate goal of helping Ohio foster care youth and alumni have the best chance at healing, growing, and being successful.

Empowering the voices of current and former foster youth within the state of Ohio has led to a ripple effect of local, statewide and national change — including a federal bill, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, which has recently passed unanimously in the US House of Representatives and is currently being championed in the US Senate, and HUD Secretary Ben Carson creating FYI on-demand housing vouchers for foster youth.

This year, International Women’s Day is celebrating women who work every day for an equal world. Ms. Dickson’s work goes beyond gender equality; it’s truly equality for all people – adults and youth who deserve families and love and equal access to life’s resources. Her own experiences have inspired her unwavering diligence and fierce advocacy, and that’s why we are honoring her for International Women’s Day.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Don't forget to #FosterMyFUTURE

One of the 2020 priorities of Ohio foster care youth and alumni is to make sure that we and our brothers and sisters of the system are:
  • Adequately prepared to build successful futures
  • Involved in decision-making that effects our lives 
  • Informed about existing resources to us succeed
  • Empowered to help make sure that federal funding streams, such as Chafee, are fully -- and effectively -- utilized to improve youth outcomes.
The dictionary definition of foster is: "To encourage or promote the development of something regarded as good; i.e. 'the teacher's task is to foster learning.'"

Foster care is more than just a placement -- it's an opportunity to 'foster' youth futures and 'foster' youth success.