COVID-19 Call to Action From Ohio Foster Youth & Alumni:
Proactive and Solution-Based Recommendations
Friday, May 29, from 10 am – 11 am
This virtual forum was an opportunity for state decision-makers to listen to the experiences and solutions-driven policy recommendations of foster care youth.
Approximately 10 minutes was dedicated to each issue, with written and video testimony available to further inform regarding proposed solutions. Lisa Dickson provided an introduction, and the Questions and Answers portion at the end was facilitated by Juliana Barton.
1.) Impact of Pandemic: COVID-19 has disconnected foster care youth and alumni from work, school and emotional supports. Kyajah Rodriguez was featured in a national news article about the struggles faced by former foster youth during the current pandemic. In her interview, she praised Governor DeWine for his help and leadership.
Ohio foster care youth and alumni deeply appreciate Governor DeWine for not aging Ohio youth out of foster care and Bridges between now and June 30, 2020. In their written testimonies, Kyajah Rodriguez and Cloe Cooper asked that support be extended beyond that date, and recommended that the state of Ohio increase Chafee supports to age 23.
ACTION Ohio also deeply appreciates Chancellor Randy Gardner and his staff. They have had ongoing conversations with us, and proactively reached out to Ohio higher education institutions and encouraging them to make it possible for former foster youth to stay on campus. We are thankful that the Ohio Department of Higher Education recognizes that, for many former foster youth, their college dorm is their only home, and their campus network is their only support system.
2.) Youth At Risk of Abuse in biological and various out-of-home placements. and the need for a Statewide Foster Care Ombudsman Office. In their written testimonies, Jonathan Thomas and Jeremy Collier shared the risks of Ohio not yet having this Office and specific design recommendations.
Ohio foster care youth and alumni have requested that this office be specifically for youth and young adults, with regulatory powers and able to act independently. In their video testimonies, Jonathan Thomas and Jeremy Collier share powerful personal examples of why the establishment of this office deeply matters to them.
3.) Normalcy and Safety Barriers, especially for youth in congregate care. Nikki Chinn’s written testimony provides examples of rights violations of Ohio youth in congregate care, including ongoing issues related to a certain facility.
Nikki Chinn’s video testimony outlines specific recommendations to improve Ohio congregate care for youth, including state oversight and directives to ensure that youth in congregate care receive safety, normalcy, food, medical care, access to Youth Rights Handbook and preparation for adulthood.
4.) Sibling Connections: Jasmine Hardy’s video testimony compares sibling separation with the pains that people are currently feeling due to social distancing. Ohio foster care youth and alumni request that sibling connections be prioritized, including phone and virtual options. Jasmine Hardy’s written testimony explains how being separated from siblings feels like a punishment for foster youth.
5.) Preparation for Adulthood: Jaye Turner’s written testimony defines foster care as more than a placement, but a launching ground to help teens build a successful future.
Jaye Turner’s video testimony future outlines the need for mandatory independent living training tracks for caseworkers and foster parents who serve teens, to be designed and led by those with lived experience in foster care.
- The OHIO Youth Advisory Board had been unable to hold its April 2020 statewide meeting due to the stay-at-home order, so this was a virtual way to share the voices of current and former foster youth in the midst of the current international pandemic.
Participants included representatives from:
- Governor DeWine’s Office
- Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
- Office of Children Services Transformation
- Ohio Children’s Alliance
- Ohio Department of Medicaid
- Public Children Services Association
- Ohio Child Welfare Training Program
- Children’s Defense Fun-Ohio
- Casey Family Programs
- Several county child welfare agencies.