On July16, the first of several Ohio Fostering Connections community forums convened in Cleveland, to discuss extending supportive services to foster youth through age 21. The Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), YWCA of Greater Cleveland, CWRU Schubert Center for Child Studies, and Fostering the Soul, in partnership with the Ohio Association of Child Care Agencies (OACCA), hosted this forum, which took place at Friendly Inn Settlement.
DCFS Administrator Patricia Rideout welcomed the nearly 100 attendees from local and statewide organizations, including representatives from the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, housing providers, funding organizations, social and mental health service providers and the faith-based community. Schubert Center Director of Child Policy Gabriella Celeste described the federal and state policy opportunities and provided an introduction to child and adolescent development research, including implications for developing effective supports for adolescents and young adults.
Kate Lodge, Project Director for A Place 4 Me, moderated a youth panel of four young adults, all former foster youth. The youth discussed the challenges they experienced during their transition out of foster care at age 18, which included housing and job insecurity, trouble reconnecting with family and friends, and lack of knowledge about life skills. They also shared people important to them, and shared their personal philosophies, which fostered their resilience. Youth voice is imperative in discussions about their care, as they know their experiences and needs best.
Following the panel, Joseph Jackson and Vikki Csornok of DCFS presented specific elements of the Fostering Connections Act of 2008, and case studies on ways in which 22 other states have adopted the law. Break out groups were formed to provide input on designing effective supports for youth ages18-12 in the following topic areas : 1) Eligibility of youth; 2) Administration of the programs; 3) Case management and support services; 4) Housing and placement; and 5) Case review.
OACCA Director Mark Meecum closed the session by explaining how this community input will be part of the information gathered from around the state to form effective state policy. He also encouraged stakeholders to sign the Ohio Fostering Connections petition to the Office of the Ohio Governor to extend supports to foster youth through age 21, and get involved on the OFC Task Force. For more information and to find out how you can get involved, visit http://www.ohiofosteringconnections.org, Like OFC on Facebook, and follow OFC on Twitter.