May 2018 Connects E-News

Community Talks Child Welfare and the Opioid Epidemic

(From left) Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein FCCS Executive Director Chip Spinning and FCCS Director of Strategy, Diversity and Evaluation Services LaShaun Carter welcome attendees to the Community Conversation on the Opioid Crisis.Children are the most vulnerable victims of the opioid epidemic which is currently plaguing our society. Communities are struggling to cope with its impact on children and Franklin County is no exception. FCCS staff and community partners met at the Glenwood Recreation Center on April 18 to discuss the local impact of opiate misuse on child welfare. Attendees gained a better understanding of how Children Services works with families dealing with this issue, and discussed ways in which the community can support children and families that are affected by it.

Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and FCCS Executive Director Chip Spinning were on hand to welcome those who attended and stress the importance of pooling resources to address how the opioid crisis is affecting children. Spinning noted that “due to their parents’ addiction, thousands of children and youth are flooding Ohio’s child welfare agencies” and “the immensity of this problem requires a community response.”

FCCS staff spoke on training efforts underway to prepare caseworkers and support personnel to meet the needs of families, as well as deal with the increase in abuse and neglect cases, as a result of opiate misuse.  

Amy O’Grady, chief of addiction policy at the Columbus City Attorney’s Office gave an overview of the Franklin County Opiate Action Plan, which is based on: prevention and community education; healthcare and risk reduction; treatment and support services; skill training of first responders and law enforcement; recovery options and community engagement. She also stressed the importance of destroying unused medications in homes.

Columbus Health Commissioner Dr.  Mysheika RobertsPat Bebo of the Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology discussed the school’s efforts to address the crisis. They include providing training for educators, as well as research projects and reports which focus on the causes and impact of addiction.

Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts led a panel discussion regarding the impact of the opioid crisis on Franklin County's children. Panelists included local teacher Theresa Bombrys, youth representative Israel Dave, House of Hope Graduate CJ Hecker and Kim Kehl from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

At the conclusion of the presentations, attendees broke into groups to discuss challenges brought about by the opioid crisis and possible solutions.

Additional community conversations on other topics will be held throughout the year.

Youth Lauded for Academic Achievements at Annual Breakfast

(From left) Jack Donahue Scholarship Winners Kyajah Rodriguez and Sabrina Frazier (Not pictured UNCF Scholarship Winner Henrietta Carter)

The community came out to FCCS’s annual Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast on April 11 to celebrate youth who have triumphed despite challenging circumstances. Scholarships were awarded to those who excelled in academics and planned to further their educations.

Kyajah Rodriguez won the 2018 Four-Year Jack Donahue scholarship. A senior at Fort Hayes Arts & Academic High School, she is active in student government, theater, journalism, and serves as president of the activities council. Rodriguez plans to pursue a degree in political science. She said, "I am focused on building a solid foundation for my future and creating a platform for not just problems that have gone unsolved, but for people who’ve been silenced by their circumstances.”

Sabrina Frazier received the Two-Year Jack Donahue Scholarship. She has obtained her GED and currently volunteers at First School as a teacher’s assistant. Frazier plans to attend Columbus State Community College in the fall. “I would love to help people and kids everywhere," she said. "I know how it feels to be alone and my future goal is to not let children nor people get neglected and feel like nobody’s there for them.”

The Jack Donahue Scholarships, which were named in honor of a former FCCS deputy director, have been awarded since 1996, thanks to generous donations to the agency’s Children’s Fund.

The Alvin Hadley UNCF Scholarship was presented to Henrietta Carter. After spending much of her life in Africa, Carter came to Ohio and was soon placed in foster care. Currently a senior at Lakewood High School, Carter plans to become a teacher and major in pre-early childhood education and social work. “I want to help others like me who have gone through so much while growing up,” she stated. For the first time, the agency was able to award a $5,000 Hadley Scholarship thanks to fundraising efforts by staff.

Click here to view photos from the 2018 Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast.

Caseworker Champions Teens

Caseworker Kelly Hartmann shares a special bond with teens on her caseload.

Kelly Hartmann is a fierce advocate for teenagers. A seasoned child welfare caseworker with 15 years of experience, Hartmann currently works in Franklin County Children Services’ adoptions department where she frequently helps older youth in permanent custody of the agency. These teens have often spent years in and out of foster care. Because they’ve endured so much in their young lives, they can understandably be wary and mistrusting of “the system.” This is where Hartmann comes in: she has a gift for breaking through and cultivating meaningful connections with and on behalf of these youth.

“Kelly has an authenticity that resonates with the teenagers on her caseload, many of whom until they met Kelly, wouldn't deal with any caseworkers on a substantive level,” says Melissa Estrella, a former supervisor. “It takes Kelly some time, but when she finally gains the trust of youth let down their entire life by adults, she is saying, ‘I'm here. You know I've got your back.’ And she does.”

When Hartmann, who says she is naturally outgoing and maternal, first meets a youth, she tells them “I am going to go above and beyond for you.” she says. “If I tell you I’m going to do something, I follow through.”

The perfect example of Hartmann’s unwavering commitment is when one of her teens, Ashley, 17, gave birth to her daughter this past February. A first-time mom-to-be, Ashley didn’t have any friends or family with her when she went into labor. Hartmann, who had stopped by the hospital on her day off just to check in, decided to stay with Ashley. She ended up supporting this teen through eight hours of labor, providing encouragement and holding her hand the entire time. According to Ashley, who has great affection, trust and respect for her, Hartmann “is more than a caseworker...She is family.”

FCCS Insider: Celebrating Volunteers

    A reception honoring agency volunteers was held April 26 at the Aladdin Shrine Center in Grove City. Click here to view photos from the event.

Hosted by FCCS and its Volunteer Services Advisory Committee (VSAC), the event highlighted the efforts of three friendship volunteers, a crisis center volunteer, a college-bound mentor and mentors of the Simba and Malaika programs as well as the Sharon Burks SOAR award. VSAC Vice Chair Dale Gresson challenged those in attendance to be “the one” person in a child’s life whenever asked, and to join the efforts to mentor youth.
Special awards were given to members with 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 years of service, including longest serving mentors Jim Ryan and Debbie Sartori. The event has been held for 34 years.

Upcoming Events

May - National Foster Care Month

Currently, there are more than 300 youth in Franklin County who are in need of loving foster homes. Click here to learn more about foster care, and how to become a foster parent.

August 4 - FCCS and Mayor Andrew Ginther's FamJam
10 a.m. to 2 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.