April 2018 Connects E-News

Be a Superhero: Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

   According to the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, every 30 minutes a child abuse case is reported or substantiated in Ohio. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and learn how you can be a superhero in preventing abuse and neglect. Last year, Franklin County Children Services received over 32,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. Your support can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child.

Franklin County Children Services along with The Center for Family Safety and Healing and the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund (OCTF) will conduct various events to educate the community and raise awareness about child abuse and neglect throughout the month of April. OCTF will kick off the month with their child abuse and neglect prevention program at the Ohio Statehouse on April 5. The event will be hosted by Joe Boxer of WCOL radio and highlight everyday heroes throughout Ohio working to prevent child abuse. On Wednesday April 11, FCCS along with its Citizens Advisory Committee will host the annual Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast at the Boat House. The breakfast highlights the accomplishments of Franklin County Children Services youth, families, employees, and community advocates who work every day to protect children by strengthening families. April 11th is also Wear Blue day (see Upcoming Events). In addition, throughout the month of April, The Center for Family Safety and Healing will conduct free training classes about abuse prevention.

Join us in fighting child abuse and neglect. Every day superheroes can help prevent harm through small acts of kindness like holding a crying baby, volunteering in your community or babysitting for an overwhelmed mother.

Visit these websites to learn more about preventing child abuse and neglect:

If you suspect abuse or neglect, call Franklin County Children Services' 24-hour hotline at (614) 229-7000.

Volunteers Ready Before and During a Crisis

   Volunteers at FCCS’s Crisis Center need to be ready for anything. They may spend a quiet evening sanitizing toys or a busy night feeding, clothing and entertaining a group of siblings. Their job is to maintain a safe, nurturing and comfortable place for kids who come into the agency's 24-hour intake office during crisis situations. It’s an unpredictable situation, as volunteers never know if or how many children will be in their care, while FCCS staff look for safe homes where the children can be placed. While volunteers typically come in for just a few hours each week, their contributions are invaluable to FCCS staff and the children they serve.

During down time, when children aren’t in the Crisis Center, volunteers help keep the place well-ordered. They clean and organize the play area, inventory stock in the clothing and food storage areas, and do whatever else is necessary to make sure children who come in have everything they need.

Children arrive at the Crisis Center—an unfamiliar place full of strangers—often feeling shaken and scared. Volunteers do what they can to make things a little better for them. Volunteer Cathy Senalik remembers caring for a crying 2-year-old who arrived with his ten siblings one night. “I got him a blanket and a stuffed animal, but that didn’t work,” she said. “So I rocked him to sleep... I thought to myself, ‘He may never get rocked to sleep again, but tonight he can feel safe.’”

Volunteers try to create positive experiences, if not joyful moments for kids who are in the middle of traumatic situations. Volunteer Molly Rhoadhouse recalls when a 6-year-old girl came into the center on Halloween night. “She was watching the clock until trick-or-treat time,” says Roadhouse. “Of course, the adults knew she would be in the Crisis Center through trick-or-treat hours. Luckily, we were able to put together a costume using Hello Kitty pajamas from the clothing room and take her trick-or-treating to various staff members.”

Volunteers can’t help but be impacted by their experiences in the Crisis Center and take a little bit of the children they serve with them at the end of their shifts. Volunteer Erica Cobbs commented, “One night, a young lady asked me if she could give me a hug and told me that she hopes to see me again, ‘just not here.’ We both laughed. It’s such a great feeling to know that you are impacting someone’s life, even in the smallest ways.”

Click here to learn more about FCCS’s volunteer programs.

Star House: a Safe Harbor for Youth

   For the estimated 2,000 homeless youth living on the streets of Columbus, Star House is a welcoming refuge. It's a safe place to grab a shower, enjoy a hot meal or link to an array of services. This nonprofit drop-in center in Columbus’ Milo-Grogan neighborhood functions as a compassionate, caring space for vulnerable youth ages 14 to 24. They served 996 individuals in 2017.

One of Franklin County Children Services’ longtime community partners, Star House works with many of the same youth that FCCS does. In fact, 47% of the youth served by Star House have been in foster care at some point in their lives and 26% have aged out of the child protection system, according to Ann Bischoff, Star House’s chief executive officer. Since so many of these young people have experienced significant adversity and trauma and are frequently disconnected from their families and communities, building their trust is key, Bischoff says. “In most cases, they’ve been let down by the adults in their lives. As a result, our youth too often don’t trust a soul when they first come to us.”

Serving 50 to 70 individuals on average each day, Star House is designed to be a “one-stop shop,” offering free resources for everything that a homeless youth might require. From clean clothing, personal hygiene items or a private space to make a phone call to medical care, therapy, housing assistance or career counseling, Star House is ready to meet most any need. Youth receive as much or as little help as they want during their visits. It’s always 100% on their terms, Bischoff says. For those who decide to seek guidance, “we’re meant to be a launch pad,” she says. Star House’s staff works with these youth on an ongoing basis to figure out what their personal barriers are and helps them achieve their goals, such as landing a job or securing housing.

Star House began as a research project in partnership with Ohio State University in 2006. While Star House now functions as an independent social service agency, it remains the only research-based drop-in center of its kind in the United States that conducts ongoing, in-house research. Current projects being conducted in collaboration with OSU include a study on housing for young moms addicted to drugs and a study on suicide prevention among homeless youth with substance abuse issues. Suicide is the number one cause of death in the 14 to 24 age group due to a lack of hope and family support, so suicide prevention is a critical concern for Star House, according to Bischoff.

To learn more about how Star House advocates for central Ohio’s homeless youth, visit starhousecolumbus.org.

FCCS Insider: Caring for our Community's Children

Franklin County Children Services was there in 2017 for thousands of children of every age, economic background, ethnicity and culture. In partnership with the community, caring for Franklin County's children is the most important job we do here at FCCS, and it’s the theme of the 2017 Report to the Community, now available here.

Upcoming Events

April - Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is a time to raise awareness about child abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the 24-Hour Child Abuse Hotline at (614) 229-7000.

April 11 - Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast
The Boat House at Confluence Park
679 West Spring Street, Columbus, OH 43215

FCCS's annual event highlights child abuse prevention and the accomplishments of social work professionals, client families, youth and community advocates. Also, college scholarships are awarded to agency youth. For more information, call (614) 275-2523 or email lamiller@fccs.us.

April 11 - Wear Blue Day

FCCS will participate in the statewide Wear Blue Day campaign to support the prevention of child abuse. Wear blue on April 11, take a photo of yourself or your group and email it to fccsoutreach@fccs.us and you may see your photo featured on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

April 26 - Volunteer Reception
The Aladdin Shrine Center
1801 Gateway Circle, Grove City, Ohio 43123

The FCCS volunteer department will celebrate volunteers and mentors and recognize all that they do for FCCS children. Click here to learn more about volunteering with FCCS.