Friday, January 29, 2021

Press conference to celebrate the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act


Representative Michael Turner invited foster care youth and alumni advocates from the OHIO YAB and ACTION Ohio to join him in celebrating FSHO becoming a law during a press conference on Wednesday, January 27, 2021.

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act mandates that federal agencies set aside housing vouchers for foster youth who age out of the system so that they no longer face homelessness. The bill, which was passed as part of the CARES Act, has requirements that the young adults must participate in training, work, or school in order to maintain the voucher.

In the words of Cloé Cooper:

Hello, my name is Cloé Cooper and I am a former foster youth who serves as an advocate to improve outcomes for my brothers and sisters in and from foster care.

It is my privilege to be a part of the collective voice of Ohio foster care youth and alumni and it is my honor today to speak on behalf on every foster youth who volunteered their time to travel to Washington D.C. To all of you who came before me, I am humbled by your tenacity and commitment to those who will come after us. 

Today, I have the honor of speaking both from my own experience and that of my siblings of the foster care system. When it comes to the historical context of this bill, Ohio foster care youth first traveled to Washington DC in March of 2013. From that very first moment, and on the very first day of legislative visits, Representative Michael Turner has been literally our very first and most authentic champion. He heard our voices and our stories, understanding that homelessness is one of the main challenges we face as we emancipate from the agencies we are assigned to. 

With the support of Mr. Turner, this life changing legislation provides on demand housing vouchers for young adults exiting foster care who are at risk of homelessness. It supersedes any barrier that once prevented our population from accessing this resource and gives former foster youth a chance to finally have a home of their own. A fair chance to build the life they deserve. 

I want to thank everyone who has supported the efforts of Ohio’s foster youth, and our nations foster youth. Those who have lived experience being involved with out of home placements can always bring understanding and solutions to the problems we face. I am filled with gratitude for those who invited us to the table to present them. I am eager to see how our countries community partners work together to make this new resource available for my brothers and sisters of care. I am confident that those who are given the ability to receive vouchers per the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act will become the next trailblazers we need to represent and fight for the equity, equality and security of every soul touched by the child welfare system and beyond. Thank you.

In the words of Jonathan Thomas: 

Good morning. I am honored, and privileged to be here amongst you all. 

I would like to thank Congressmen Mike Turner for his continued support of emancipated foster youth all over Ohio. It can be difficult to emancipate into adulthood with no idea of what such a life should look like. But the work from this office has gone forward to pave the way for some amazing programs, that have the potential to guide our youths into successful lives.

Many people give up on you in foster care. Even more people give up on you when you emancipate foster care. Therefore, it is extremely encouraging for the moral of human decency that people continue to strive to do better for each other. A mantle that everyone here has taken up in some way, shape, or form.

May those to come observe, and take note of this day, and may they know that this was done for them. For the hope of their future. May this day encourage them, and inspire their dreams of a more positive way of life. And may they know that they are loved, hoped for, and believed in more than they can possibly imagine. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

husband haiku

Lisa strolled the shores

Saving shells for later days

Glitter, glue, and glaze

Monday, January 18, 2021

Martin Luther King Day, 2021

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Please Don't Be "Relentless"

I am deeply concerned by the new national tagline to “Be Relentless for Families” and how it might undermine interventions for abused kids and teens.  

Buzzwords can be helpful - and buzzwords can be dangerous. Because they influence people’s actions. For example, that whole “ending foster care by 2020” thing? Never happened. But it did shift the focus of policy and decision making.

Can a system that has been advised to be “relentless for families” respond in a helpful manner to a teen is begging for themselves and their siblings to be safeguarded from further abuse?  Or will it be more likely that they are sent back to that unsafe situation?

It’s great to support families in need of help. All in favor of that. But we should never abandon the cause of child protection. Child protection needs to remain the North Star.

We’ve had numerous young people who have run away from abusive bio/adoptive families, seeking help. Many were sent right back. At least one has been sent to juvenile detention as punishment for running away. A question we've been asked by youth who have experienced abuse is, "Why does my family have more rights than I do?"

Sunday, January 10, 2021

FYI: By Youth, For Youth

As a former foster youth who aged out in 1989 and experienced homelessness within a year, it has been the deepest privilege of my life to partner with Doris Edelmann and Jamole Callahan to bring Ohio foster youth to DC for eight years in a row. 

From the very first DC trip that ACTION Ohio facilitated in 2013, it was the youth themselves who designed and proposed solutions to support their brothers and sisters of the system. The current and former foster youth who participated in this effort did so on a volunteer basis, with a focus on improving outcomes after foster care.

Our utmost priority was to end the Foster Care to Homeless Pipeline.
Ohio foster care youth pointed out that the experience of homelessness after foster care was both predictable and avoidable. When young people are in foster care, the system knows who they are, where they are, how old they are, and when they will transition into young adulthood. 

Therefore, why not plan ahead, anticipate the need, and establish a partnership between child welfare agencies and public housing authorities to provide on-demand housing vouchers paired with supportive services?

The Foster Youth to Independence Initiative (FYI) closes the gaps between existing federal resources. With FYI, we didn't create anything new; foster youth took the best of what child welfare and public housing professionals have to offer and synchronized their work. 

It isn’t enough just to measure negative statistics. With forethought, planning, creativity, determination, and the voices of those with “lived experience,” those statistics can be improved. This includes weaving together existing resources in a proactive, rather than reactive way.

Now that the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act (FSHO) has been signed into federal law, this provision is available throughout the nation. We offer heartfelt thanks to HUD and federal legislators, and welcome ongoing discussions with child welfare professionals about how to most effectively pair this housing resource with supportive services. Let’s continue to improve outcomes after foster care together.