July 2019 Connects E-News

It’s Time for FamJam!

From exciting entertainment to useful resources and health screenings, FamJam offers the community a fun and enriching experience. Franklin County Children Services and Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s FamJam is a free family enrichment festival held each year. Join us on August 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons for this ninth annual event, jointly presented by FCCS and the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods.

FamJam includes fun and informative activities for the whole family, rain or shine. The event is free, but there is a cost for parking at local garages. Entertainment will be provided by youth acts on the pavilion stage. More than 85 organizations will offer resources, giveaways and more to the community at their booths. They will be joined by safety forces from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbus divisions of police and fire. Complimentary snacks will also be provided.

Click here to learn more.

Youth Gain Work Experience with A.M.P.

FCCS's Cassie Snyder and others ready youth for employment.This summer, IMPACT Community Action, Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio and Franklin County Children Services partnered to offer emancipated youth an opportunity to learn vital job skills needed for the workforce. Achieve More and Prosper (A.M.P.) is a year-round program that offers paid work experiences to participants ages 16-21. “Participants are being linked with the organization that best matches their educational and/or employment goals,” said Lawrence Jackson of Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio.

IMPACT provided a week of workforce readiness training prior to the participants’ 8-week employment placement. “While attending the event, youth are taught the basics of how to apply for jobs, professional dress, interviewing techniques, the importance of social media, personal branding, and professional communication,” said FCCS Associate Director Cassie Snyder.

Jerry, a 19-year-old second year participant in the program said, “I just want to be working and this program allows me to work and learn new skills.” He enjoys playing basketball and hoped to be placed in a job that uses his physical skills, such as a warehouse position. Last year, while working at Celebrate One, Jerry learned various office skills.

Jalisa, an 18-year old recent high school graduate is passionate about finance. She attended the Columbus Downtown High School’s business program, during which her team received the Business Professional of America Award. When asked what she’s looking for in a job, Jalisa said, “I want to be able to connect with others and help them with finances and making better financial decisions.”  

Click here to learn more about FCCS's Youth Transition Services Program.

Caseworker Offers Families Empathy and Support

Caseworker Michelle Fisher supports families. Whether she’s supporting a parent with mental health issues, linking a homeless family to needed community resources or consoling a grieving child, Michelle Fisher is a shining example of how caseworkers change lives every day. Committed and compassionate, Fisher says she couldn’t imagine doing anything else. She’s spent almost eight years in the child welfare field, and currently works at Franklin County Children Services’ intake, assessment and investigations office. “I love being able to help families and support them in any way I can,” says Fisher, who looks forward to coming to work every day.

Fisher excels at connecting with families in a kind and respectful manner. “She has a keen ability to engage families in a way that makes them feel comfortable sharing the details of their lives with her,” according to Fisher’s supervisor Kayla Price. “She utilizes her phenomenal engagement skills to gather the necessary information to ensure children are safe.”

Family engagement isn’t always easy, though. Fisher says her greatest challenge is letting a concerned and possibly scared parent know that she’s truly there to help. The objective is “trying to get through to them and breaking down those barriers,” she says. “There are so many fearful families. Really showing that you care, goes a long way in building rapport and trust. I try to be that friendly support.”

As a caseworker at FCCS’s intake office, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Fisher is always there when it matters most. One Thanksgiving night, she comforted a teenage girl who had just witnessed her mother’s murder. Fisher recalls that she “literally sat on the floor and cried with her,” as the shocked youth processed this devastating news. This deep commitment to children and families is typical for Fisher, according to her supervisor Price. “What happened after the teen was brought in was an incredible example of how traumatic this work can be and how amazing Michelle is at showing empathy and being there for a family during a time of loss.”

Volunteer Offers Care During Crisis Situations

Heather McDonald receives the Crisis Center Volunteer of the Year Award.Heather McDonald is actually happy to receive a call from FCCS during the middle of the night. A self-described night owl, she has enjoyed volunteering at the agency’s Intake Crisis Center during third shift, since 2016. When children come to the agency during emergency situations, volunteers are needed to make them comfortable until they can be placed with a caregiver. McDonald is happy to be there to lend a helping hand and make the kids feel safe.

Rather than having a regular shift as a volunteer, McDonald is on call to come in when needed. This may happen several times each week and she can be at the center for five to six hours at a time. Always eager to jump in when needed, McDonald has volunteered for multiple shifts within a 24-hour period. In acknowledgment of her service, McDonald was awarded the volunteer department’s 2019 Crisis Center Volunteer of the Year Award. “She has done more than we asked of her,” said volunteer coordinator Joy Xaybandith.

The center can get quite busy. McDonald recalls when nine siblings (seven of whom were under the age of 4) came in one night and she helped staff get them settled. The work can also be emotional. A young girl once asked McDonald to be her foster mother. While that was heart-wrenching, McDonald said, “I was glad that the time we spent together had made such a impression on her.”    

Ultimately, McDonald has found that volunteering is very rewarding and that being at the center can be a positive experience for children. “Nine times out of ten, the kids are fine, if you are. If I act stressed, they will respond to that, so I just try to treat them like they’re part of my family and ‘love-on’ them while they’re there.”    

Click here to learn about becoming a volunteer in the Crisis Center and other programs.

Upcoming Events

August 10 - African-American Male Wellness Walk
7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Livingston Park
732 E. Livingston Ave.

FCCS is one of the co-sponsors of the 15th 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.

August 17 - 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.

September 27 - Children's Day at COSI
5 to 9 p.m.
333 W. Broad St.

At FCCS's annual Children's Day celebration at COSI, children and families involved with FCCS will receive free admission to COSI exhibits, while a reduced rate for general admission is available to the public. Join us to enjoy local musicians and shake hands with local mascots, including FCCS's own Ted D. Bear. Parking is $6. Click here to learn more about Children's Day at COSI.

September 28 - UNCF Walk for Education
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Wolfe Park
105 Park Drive

FCCS will sponsor a team participating in this event which raises funds for college scholarships including the FCCS Alvin R. Hadley Scholarship. This scholarship is presented to an agency youth each year. For more information, visit www.uncf.org/events/event/2019-walk-for-education-columbus. or call (614) 221-5309.