COVID-19 Call to Action From Ohio Foster Youth & Alumni:
Proactive and Solution-Based Recommendations
Questions and Answers Portion, 5/29/20
Many thanks to each of the participants during the recent virtual foster care forum. We will be circling back about each of the topics on an ongoing basis, but wanted to start by addressing five questions received during the Questions and Answers portion.
1.) As a foster parent, what are some key things I can do to help build trust between me and the foster youth in my home?
Echoing the points he made in his written testimony, Jeremy Collier spoke about building a foundation of trust. Jonathan Thomas recommended not attacking biological families.
There is an excellent video created by a former Ohio foster youth called “Saving Jackie” that captures how Selena Burks’ foster mother supported Selena’s relationship with her biological mother. Selena would be an excellent resource and even a potential keynote speaker on this topic in the future.
2.) As foster care youth and alumni, what methods do you recommend in order to recruit more foster parents, especially for teens?
Nikki Chinn’s written testimony included concerns about youth being placed in congregate care, including juvenile justice placements, due to not having enough foster homes willing to take teens.
This concern has been expressed in recent news articles as well; for example, Richland County recently reported that 30% of their caseload is teenagers, but they only have two current foster homes who are willing to care for teens.
The OHIO Youth Advisory Board has created two videos to help recruit foster parents for teens. Marissa Alcorn and her chosen family shared how foster care brought them together. Jewel Harris provided a detailed look at why foster homes for teens matter, and what teens need from foster homes. Please feel free to share these two videos broadly. Mark Mecum of the Ohio Children’s Alliance recommends learning more about the CHAMPS campaign as well.
The suggestion was made that “meet and greets” between foster parents and teenagers might be helpful, in order alleviate potential fear or discomfort. Jonathan Thomas suggested doing an interview between the potential foster family and foster child to check compatibility/connection – this is similar to the “youth-centered approach utilized by the evidence-based Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
3.) How can foster parents be better prepared and supported when it comes to accepting teenagers in their home?
Friday’s discussion focused on “shifting the narrative” of what it means to be a foster parent from being a temporary placement for teenagers to being a launching ground to help teens build a successful future.
We recommend a thorough review of Jaye Turner’s written and video testimony. To quote from one of Jaye’s excellent insights, “Foster care should be more than just a place to stay but a place to connect, educate, and grow.”
4.) Questions were asked regarding the duration of Governor DeWine’s moratorium on “aging youth out” of foster care/Bridges:
In our initial letter to Governor DeWine, ACTION Ohio and the OHIO YAB requested that foster care supports be extended through October 30, 2020. In his response, the Governor initially extended supports through June 30, 2020. We believe that this is because Ohio’s fiscal year ends on June 30th, and Ohio’s budget for the next fiscal year, which starts back up on July 1st, has not been finalized.
During the Virtual Foster Care Forum on Friday, participants asked for this support to be extended beyond June 30th. An excellent suggestion was made by Kim Eckhart of CDF-Ohio during Friday’s virtual forum: “Have you considered advocating that the moratorium be tied to the unemployment rate, to give youth the best chance of getting employment after they leave?”
Participants discussed that, rather than basing extended foster care supports based on an arbitrary date, this could be done based on Ohio’s current unemployment rate.
ACTION Ohio fully endorses this written response from Cloe Cooper:
“The unemployment rate should absolutely be considered when extending the moratorium put out by Governor DeWine preventing youth from aging out of state custody and the Bridges program. In order for young people to be successful, they have to have an opportunity to earn income. For youth who may not have any prior work experience, jobs can be hard to secure even without a pandemic causing business shutdowns. It is unrealistic to think that anyone, especially those without familial supports, would be able to take care of their basic needs without a source of income. The inability of former foster youth to gain employment should be a major factor in their discharge from care now and always.”
5.) During a recent OHILA meeting, several workers asked how to motivate youth to participate in independent living activities.
Foster care alumni Jamole Callahan has been working with Franklin County Children Services to help revamp and revitalize their independent living program, and has offered his assistance as a consultant to other counties as well. We recommend reaching out to him, in order to learn more.