February 2020 Connects E-News

Former Foster Youth Thrives with Help from Housing Voucher Program

Ciaira Richey

Ciaira Richey has a lot of soaps, candles and air fresheners thanks to Christmas gifts from her former foster mother. “I love her to death,” said Ritchie who is still settling into her own place. Thanks to the Family Unification Program (FUP) housing choice voucher she’s received, Richey can live on her own, while attending Ohio University Zanesville, working two jobs and remaining close with her foster family.

After aging out of foster care at 18, living with family members and briefly being homeless, Richey entered the Buckeye Ranch’s My Place program, where she lived in an apartment. When she turned 21, Richey needed to make her own way and the FUP vouchers were a lifesaver for her. “Without them, I would’ve had to give up on school, because I couldn’t afford tuition and other expenses,” she said.

FUP provides housing assistance to youth who have aged out of foster care and are at risk of homelessness, as well as families who lack adequate housing and are at risk of having their children placed in out of home care. Participants can receive subsidized housing for 36 months. Funding for the FUP vouchers is provided by Congress through annual appropriation acts.  

Richey was introduced to the program by her FCCS caseworker, Kim Carter, who helped her gather necessary information and find a home. “I think we looked at every apartment in Columbus,” Carter joked. Richey is happy in her apartment, although she doesn’t stay home much. “I work a lot,” she said. Close to receiving her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, she hopes to enter the Columbus Police Academy and eventually become a private detective. In the meantime, Richey loves to come home to her dogs Marley and Murray. “I like the freedom of having my own place,” she said. “But I also have to motivate myself now to make sure I stay on the right track.”

Click here to learn more about FUP.

Former Agency Youth Equips Others with Life Skills

Jamole CallahanHaving spent five years in foster care through FCCS, earning a degree, serving as a keynote speaker at state and national child welfare conferences, consulting, writing curricula and providing training for foster parents and foster care staff, Jamole Callahan is well qualified to take on the task of providing life skills instruction to agency youth. As the new life skills trainer, Callahan’s best assets may be his ability to meet youth where they are and give them what they need to become successful and self-sufficient once they leave agency care.

Life skills training is a ten-week program for youth in agency care ages 14 to 18. Callahan helped to rewrite the previous curriculum for the course so that it’s more experiential and interactive. After his own instruction, Callahan felt there was a deficit in what the course taught and what he retained, and so he wanted to change the program to mitigate that. Weekly topics include: employment, banking, interviewing, personal finance, housing, food management, health and planning for the future. The course matches classroom work with interactive experiences, such as visiting Daymar College for a resume workshop and mock interviews; volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and on a job site; and visiting Columbus State Community College to do food preparation at their culinary facility, Mitchell Hall.  

For Callahan, one of the most important parts of the training course is getting to know the participants and enabling them to share their feelings and experiences so they receive the information they need. Participants can give real-time anonymous feedback using the Mentimeter app. This encourages everyone to participate in discussions. When asked what they’d like to get out of the course, comments included: “be prepared to be an adult.”  

Click here to learn more about Life Skills Training and FCCS’s Youth Transition Services.

Celebrating African-American History Month

African-American History Month is an annual celebration highlighting the contributions of African-Americans within the United States and the world at large. Since 1976, February has been designated as the official month for celebrating this critical part of history. It is a great opportunity to teach children about African-American heritage. Below are a few events, celebrating this occasion in central Ohio.

  • Africa & the African Diasporas: On the Politics of Race, Power & Belonging
    February 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
    OSU African-American & African Studies Community Extension Center. (Register on Eventbrite.com.)
    Dr. Babacar M’Baye presents this event during the Global Africa Lecture & Discussion Series.

  • A Celebration of Black History
    February 19, 1 p.m., Columbus City Council Chambers
    Columbus City Council presents a celebration of African-American history in the success and shaping of Columbus. The Honorable Algenon L. Marbley, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio will be the keynote speaker. Click here for more information.

  • Science: Let’s React
    February 25, 5 p.m., Columbus Metropolitan Library, Linden Branch
    Local African-American business owners join library staff to teach about notable scientists and conduct hands-on science activities with youth ages 7 to 11 (For a complete list of programs, go to https://www.columbuslibrary.org/)

This is just a small sample of local events. For more, Google: “Black History Month activities Columbus, Ohio.”

Upcoming Events

March - National Social Work Month

National Social Work Month is a time for increasing public awareness and knowledge of the profession of social work and how these dedicated individuals impact society.

April - Child Abuse Prevention Month

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

April 8 - Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast

Mitchell Hall, Columbus State Community College
250 Cleveland Ave. 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 vesmith@fccs.us.

April 8 - Wear Blue Day

FCCS will participate in the statewide Wear Blue Day campaign to support the prevention of child abuse. Wear blue on April 8, 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.