January 2018 Connects E-News

Holiday Wish Thanks You for Helping 6,600 Youth

Local teen Martiza Gonzalez-Slattery dropped off toys that she had collected for Holiday Wish all year round. This year’s response to our annual Holiday Wish program was off the charts! From our staff and volunteers to your family, thank you central Ohio for coming through with Holiday Wish donations and gifts for more than 6,600 children on our caseload in 2017.

Although the holiday season can be a difficult and challenging time for many of the families served by FCCS, your tremendous generosity to Holiday Wish this year put the sparkle back into the lives of children – thousands of them and their caregivers!

Caseworkers were able to deliver about $50 worth of gifts for each child – or perhaps a $60 gift card to a teen paid for with your donations – with love, while carrying a message that the community cares.

We had help from more than 1,000 individual donors, businesses, church groups, motorcycle clubs, law enforcement units and community groups who held fundraisers and an astounding 53 separate toy drives. More than 400 bicycles and safety helmets were donated by friends of Bike Lady Inc., providing a shiny, mobile reminder of the freedom to ride. Some children, feeling the spirit of the season, also stopped by our offices at 855 W. Mound St. to drop off their own purchases this year to give back to someone their age.

Every wish was granted, all because of you.

From our families at Franklin County Children Services to yours, we wish you a safe and prosperous New Year.

Friendship Mentors Making a Difference

(From right) Lenczicki and HallieYouth served by Franklin County Children Services often need someone who will help them look beyond their current situations and see all of the opportunities that are within their reach. Friendship Program mentors like Jillian Lenczicki and Andrea Ravagnani are essential to helping these youth not only enjoy their childhoods, but prepare for a bright future.

For Lenczicki, being a mentor is a chance to make a difference and enrich a child’s life. “I grew up with supportive parents who exposed me to a lot of positive experiences and being a mentor allows me to do that for someone else,” she says. Lenczicki has been matched with 17-year-old Hallie for five years. They regularly attend festivals, concerts and movies. Lenczicki is also helping Hallie research schools, while the recent high school graduate works to save up for nursing school.

A long time mentor in her professional life, Ravagnani became a FCCS mentor because she wanted to help kids who need guidance the most. She likes to use life experiences as teachable moments with her 12-year-old mentee Tia. They frequently discuss Tia’s interactions with teachers and how her behavior affects others. “I want Tia to trust and rely on me and I’m seeing her grow as a person,” Ravagnani says. In a short time, Tia has become part of Ravagnani’s extended family, spending time swimming, baking and visiting with Ravagnani, her husband and her 7-year-old.(From left) Ravagnani and Tia

Both Lencziki and Ravagnani agree that being a mentor is worthwhile. “A small amount of time can make a big impact on a kid’s life and you get a new friend in return,” says Ravagnani. “Knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life is amazing,” says, Lenczicki.

January is National Mentoring Month. To learn how you can mentor a youth through FCCS’s Friendship, Simba, Malaika or College-Bound Mentoring Programs click here or call (614) 275-2690.

Intake Caseworker Dedicated to Child Safety

FCCS Caseworker Emily Brentlinger Caseworkers play a vital role in the success of the families they serve. These caring professionals protect vulnerable children and support families by providing resources to overcome trauma and achieve reunification. Intake caseworker Emily Brentlinger is dedicated to providing safety for children.

As part of the agency’s Intake, Assessment and Investigations department, Brentlinger spends her days visiting families who are in crisis and finding the best ways to help them. Establishing a positive rapport with families and meeting time frame goals is essential to her ability to advocate for them and help strengthen the family. Her priorities are to determine if abuse or neglect has occurred and develop a plan to ensure the safety of the children involved. “Caseworkers help children to have a voice when they are sometimes fearful or too young to express negative things happening to them,” she says.

Intake caseworkers work with an average of 15 families or more at a given time. Brentlinger’s work includes referring families to services to deal with issues such as mental health, finances, housing and employment. She is often called upon to find a safe place for children to live, while issues are being resolved.

Finding a balance with work and life can be challenging for a caseworker with the long hours and paperwork. But being able to help a family in need keeps Brentlinger coming back to work each day. Assurance that she is a strong advocate for children comes in various ways, like reuniting a child who was being abused by the mother's boyfriend with their biological father. “I feel successful when a family is thankful for our help, but is now able to cope without assistance from FCCS,” she says.

Click here to learn more about FCCS's Intake, Assessment and Investigations Department.

FCCS Insider: Holiday Visitation

This past December, Franklin County Children Services’ eighth annual Holiday Visitation helped brighten the holidays for hundreds of children and families going through challenging circumstances. A busy three-day event that hosted more than 1,100 people, the visitation gives families with children in out-of-home placement, such as foster care, a chance to spend time together and work toward reunification. During the visitation, families shared a meal, made a craft project, had their faces painted, visited with a rotating cast of friendly therapy dogs and posed for photos with Santa. Mrs. Claus was also in attendance, spreading good cheer.  

The Holiday Visitation is an elaborate production that relies on hundreds of individuals to help it run smoothly and safely. In addition to dedicated FCCS staff and committed community volunteers, much-needed support came from Columbus Downtown High School, State Teachers Retirement System Ohio, Ohio State University College of Social Work and Fiserv. As a sweet bonus, a record 300 dozen homemade baked goods were generously donated for the families to enjoy.

Upcoming Events

January 18 - Make a Difference Night
5:30 - 7 p.m.
855 W. Mound Street

Join us at this casual event, during which you can learn about opportunities for making a difference by helping children and families served by Franklin County Children Services. Enjoy refreshments and inspirational stories. For more information, call (614) 275-2690 or click here.