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The North Star, Polaris, marks the way due north. The reason the North Star is so important is because the axis of Earth is pointed almost directly at it. During the course of night, the North Star does not rise or set, but remains in very nearly the same spot above the northern horizon year-round while the other stars circle around it. This makes the North Star incredibly important for navigation.
I was recently asked what my biggest struggle was this year, and the answer was most definitely trying to help a young person who only just turned 15 years old successfully advocate to be removed from an abusive kinship care placement.
The process took way too long and was impeded by multiple barriers. Far too many avenues that he turned to for help were ineffective and/or incredibly difficult to access - and this continues to make me deeply worry about other young people in his situation who don’t have outside help.
I firmly agree with the remarks of Governor Mike DeWine during his recent press conference when he stated that child protection needs to be the North Star.
There can be a pendulum swing of extreme opinions when it comes to politics and fields of study. I would love to see this North Star perspective be accepted and embraced by others who are in positions in which they have the power to create positive change.
Politics are real, and we cannot abandon the North Star.
Meaning that #Child Protection needs to take precedence before putting #Family First.
Children and teens do not choose the family into which they are born. If additional services can help the family stay together safely, that is wonderful. But I don’t think that is all that is at stake here, or that it reflects the true narrative about what is going on.
Positively transforming the foster care system here in Ohio needs to be more than a cost-saving, time-saving measure. It needs to actually reflect the voices of the many Ohio foster care youth and alumni who shared insights during the forums about how to help current and former foster youth succeed.
Ryan Dowd of the Homeless Training Institute is one of my favorite trainers.
Workplace Tips were shared on Sunday, Nov. 22, at 1 pm: Amber Dudsak did an excellent job of facilitating the conversation. Cloe Cooper of FAN and Jaye Turner of El’lesun shared about Project PASSION.
On Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, Governor DeWine held a press conference to announce the final release of the Children Services Transformation Advisory Council's final report and recommendations to reform Ohio's children services and foster care system.
Governor DeWine's heart for foster youth was reflected in his opening remarks, during which he reiterated the need to focus on children and their best interest. He spoke about about giving foster youth a shot at living the American dream, and said, "Foster youth's health and safety needs to remain the North Star... The children/teen's rights need to come first."
The second speaker was Office of Children Services Transformation Director Kristi Burre. She spoke about trying to improve the lives of families and children throughout Ohio, and trying to include the voices of all Ohioans, across the entire continuum of the system. Her focus was broad, but she did include the quote that, "Foster youth have a right to be at the table."
Some of the highlights she mentioned were consistent screening of child abuse and neglect reports, the establishment of a statewide Ombudsman's Office, the need for normalcy, and the creation of a Bill of Rights for foster youth and for foster caregivers.
She also spoke about Adoption Best Practices, such as Wendy's Wonderful Kids and Permanency Roundtables, and juvenile justice collaboration -- which will include establishing some Best Practices regarding GALs.
The third speaker was Melinda Sykes Haggerty. As an adoptee and former foster youth, Melinda shared that she feels this is her life mission. She thanked Governor DeWine for his unwavering dedication to improving outcomes for foster youth throughout his career.
Melinda reflected on her experience on the Advisory Council, and shared that it was a balance of complicated family dynamics and interests. She spoke about the listening tour, and the honor and necessity of listening to and responding to those who have lived experience.
She said that, out of all of the recommendations, she is the most proud of:
Final remarks were made by ODJFS Director Kim Hall. Her closing words included the desire for a continued collaboration with foster care youth and alumni.
After that, they opened it up for questions from reporters. The first reporter asked about child fatalities, and referred to a specific case of child abuse in Dayton.
Governor DeWine responded that, "We have to do better for these kids. The child's rights need to come first. These are tough decisions, but we need to focus on children."
Reflections, when it comes to the OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio:
Discussion on Saturday, Nov. 21 focused on resources, partnerships and strategies to continue to work together to help improve post-secondary outcomes for young adults with a foster care history.
Here's a glimpse of our "What No One Ever Told Me About Relationships" Zoom on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Olena Sowers shared awesome insights, Donte Woods-Spikes offered ally support, and insights were shared by all participants, including authors Ruth-Ann Jones Thompson and Deanna Jones.
This is a summary of the Top Five Relationship Tips that were shared.