June 2017 Connects E-News

Kinship Strengthens Bonds for McDonald Family

The McDonalds share love and resilience.Anna and Sam McDonald feel blessed, living in a home filled with love and the rambunctious activity of their three grandchildren. While they face challenges as kinship parents, the couple is grateful for being able to provide a stable and loving home for 3-year-old Rashon, 10-year-old Don’Tess and 13-year-old Anjel. “We love and enjoy them,” said Sam, while bouncing Rashon on his knee. “They really are a blessing.”

While they were still newlyweds, the McDonalds learned that Anna’s daughter’s children had been placed in Children Services’ care. In spite of their plans to move out of state, the couple did not hesitate to change the direction of their lives and welcome the siblings into their home. Now having taken permanent custody of the children, the McDonalds are happy to say that they are thriving. The children had been in a home with little structure. Now, Anjel is on the honor roll, Don’tess has come out of this shell and is doing well in school and Rashon is bright and talkative with a huge vocabulary for a preschooler.

The greatest challenge that the family faces is financial, but they’re trying to cope. Sam has taken on stay at home dad duty, while Anna works for an agency that provides services to people with disabilities. Their days and nights are very busy. But still the McDonalds, who received FCCS’s Kinship Family of the Year Award this past April, are committed to continuing to do all they can for the children who now call them “mom” and “dad.” “We’re so proud of how far they’ve come and how well they’re doing and we’re trusting God to help us keep going,” said Anna.

New Malaika Director to Inspire Girls

Tonia Still“I want to give young African-American women a voice, help them determine their own identities and give them a sense of their value,” says new Malaika Mentoring Program Director Tonia Still. A former teacher, caseworker and 20 year employee of Franklin County Children Services, Still has always felt a calling to advocate for young people and their families. Her new role in the Malaika Program, which matches African-American girls with African-American women as mentors, will enable her to help create positive outcomes for a particularly vulnerable population.

“I want to help African-American girls who experience low self-esteem and feel they don’t meet the standards of beauty or have opportunities see that they can define who they are,” says Still. To that end, the Malaika program is seeking mentors who are willing to commit to making enduring connections with youth. “We need women who can show them that they can make their own mark on the world and help them create realistic plans to get there,” she says.

Still believes that even if someone isn’t able to commit to being a mentor, they can still have a positive impact on the youth served by Malaika. “We need people who can donate time and resources and help these young women have positive experiences. That can be coming in and teaching a seminar or linking them with other programs in the community and more.”

Click here to learn more about the Malaika Mentoring Program.

Community Partner Profile: Bikers Against Child Abuse

Local B.A.C.A. members came out to support children during FCCS and Mayor Andrew J. Ginther's FamJam in 2016.While leather-clad motorcyclists with nicknames like Shredder, Sniper and Lerch might seem intimidating, they are actually heroes to children who have experienced abuse and neglect. These are members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.), an international, volunteer-run nonprofit that advocates for children in need, providing them with friendship, support and encouragement during difficult times.  

B.A.C.A. was founded in Utah by a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist who had worked with abused and neglected children for decades and saw a need to provide them with additional support and advocacy outside of the traditional “system.” B.A.C.A., which focuses on empowering children and helping them feel safe and strong, has since grown into an international organization with chapters across the United States and in 13 countries.

The Central Ohio B.A.C.A. chapter, working in conjunction with local law enforcement and social service agencies, “adopts” children in need, providing physical and emotional support and making them feel like they’re part of a safe and welcoming extended biker family. These kids even get their own road names and their own vests with the official B.A.C.A. patch on it. “We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live,” says Jammer, who is the president of the chapter. “We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization.” B.A.C.A. provides support to these children and their families on an ongoing basis, attending court and parole hearings, dropping by for visits, and just being there as a dependable support when needed.

Over the years, B.A.C.A. has made contributions to FCCS’s Holiday Wish Program and regularly participates in FCCS and Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s FamJam each summer, where they spread their message of child protection with the public. For more information on B.A.C.A., visit bacaworld.org.

FCCS Insider: Celebrating Graduates

FCCS grads receive certificates acknowledging their accomplishments from the Columbus City Council during the graduation party. On May 24, FCCS celebrated the graduations of 69 agency youth who overcame many obstacles and challenges to obtain their high school diploma or GED. With the help of generous donations from individuals, organizations, volunteers and staff, these youth had an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with food, photos, dancing and gift bags filled with teen-friendly items. College bound graduates also registered to receive care packages throughout the year.

“It was an amazing party and the kids had a TON of fun,” said FCCS Director of Volunteer Services Elizabeth Crabtree. “It was a great opportunity for volunteers, staff and board members to witness and celebrate the accomplishments of our youth.” The grads also received words of encouragement from Columbus City Council members Elizabeth Brown and Michael Stinziano.

The past may have been challenging, but the future looks bright for these graduates. Congratulations, Class of 2017!  

Upcoming Events

June through August - Sunny 95 Neighborhood Block Parties
FCCS will be at the Sunny 95 Neighborhood Block Parties throughout the summer. We'll share parenting tips and other resources with the community. Follow us on Facebook to learn dates and locations.

August 5 - FCCS and Mayor Andrew Ginther's FamJam
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Columbus Commons
160 S. High Street
Franklin County Children Services and the city of Columbus invite you to a free, family enrichment festival at the Columbus Commons. FamJam will bring families together with community resources, vendors and information tables, as well as tons of fun and entertainment. Rain or shine! For more information, call (614) 341-6085 or click here.

August 10 - Empowerment Day Job and Resource Fair
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Columbus State Conference Center
315 Cleveland Ave.
FCCS, other government agencies and community partners will provide resources, employment information, educational opportunities and assistance with legal issues to the community during this free event. Visit support.franklincountyohio.gov for more information.

August 12 - African-American Male Wellness Walk
7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Livingston Park
732 E. Livingston Ave.
FCCS is co-sponsoring the 14th annual walk/run, which will also include free health screenings for the entire family. For more information visit aawalk.org, email aamwwalk@gmail.com or call (614) 754-7511.