April 2020 Connects E-News

Community Called to Protect Children During COVID-19

      During the challenging circumstances caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Children Services staff are still on the front lines protecting children from child abuse and neglect by supporting families. However, while community involvement is always critical to keeping children safe, the awareness and intervention of the public is even more important during this time. Since children are now out of school and Stay at Home orders are in place, children desperately need the people who are around them to help protect them.

How Can You Help?

Be aware and be vigilant! Keep in touch with your neighbors, family members and friends. If you suspect that child abuse or neglect is occurring, call the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at (614) 229-7000 and make a report. Children Services staff are available to listen to your concerns and conduct investigations. Visit our website to review Guidelines: What You Need to Know about Child Abuse and Neglect.

Check in with families and be a good listener. Talk with caregivers about what they’re experiencing and offer them support. Encourage those who are experiencing stress and anxiety while caring for children to seek professional help. Children Services can offer them assistance, while working to keep the family together. Help alleviate their fears about contacting FCCS.

Help families in need with your donations. Many are having trouble meeting basic needs. Drop off care packages for families with items such as diapers, formula, wipes, toilet paper, food and cleaning supplies. Support local charities such as the Columbus Diaper Bank, and Mid-Ohio Food Collective.

Visit our website for a list of helpful resources for preventing child abuse and neglect during COVID-19.

Parents/Caregivers: Plan in Case of Illness

During the uncertainty of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, parents and caregivers need to be prepared in case they become ill. Create a crisis plan for caring for your children in advance.

Designate a caregiver for children. This should be someone nearby, who is not at high risk of contracting COVID-19. If a spouse or partner cannot care for children in your home, select a friend, neighbor, coworker or relative. List information for the caregiver prominently in your home, so that it can easily be found by emergency responders. Click here for an example. Create a child care profile for the caregiver that lists your child’s full name, birth date, allergies, medications, likes/dislikes and sleep habits. Also include emergency contacts and copies of their birth certificate and immunization records.

If you can’t identify anyone, contact community resources such as hospitals, churches and other organizations to see if they can recommend assistance. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is licensing temporary pandemic child care programs for essential workers.

Prepare your home in case of illness. Make sure that high-traffic areas within your home remain clean by using germ-killing cleaning agents. If you test positive for COVID-19, you may remain in the home with your children and their caregivers, providing they are not at high risk of contracting the virus, but precautions must be taken. The Centers for Disease Control have outlined steps to take if you or someone else in your household tests positive for COVID-19.

Click here for more information from wired.com about How to Care for Kids if You’re Sick with COVID-19.  

Celebrating Successes During Child Abuse Prevention Month

First row (from left): Marquai Smith, Karimah Addison-Bolding and Ingrid Mestizo-Alvarado;  second row (from left) Taja Blomgren, Ciaira Richey and Mark MayleApril is the time for raising awareness of child abuse and neglect and celebrating those who have triumphed over these issues. While this year’s annual Child Abuse Prevention Breakfast was unfortunately canceled, Children Services would like to focus on the award-winning families and youth who have overcome obstacles to find success and the staff and community partners that have helped them thrive.

The Jack Donahue four-year scholarship was awarded to Marquai Smith who will pursue degrees in political science and psychology and eventually obtain a law degree. The two-year scholarship was presented to Karimah Addison-Bolding whose ambition is to become a social worker. The Alvin Hadley United Negro College Fund scholarship was presented to Ingrid Mestizo-Alvarado who intends to pursue degrees in business and criminal justice so that she can help working mothers and immigrants in her community. CME Federal Credit Union gave their first scholarship to Taja Blomgren who plans to further the education in cybersecurity that she received as a student at Fairfield Career Center.

The Rising Up and Moving on Awards were presented to agency youth who have overcome obstacles. Awards were received by Ciaira Richey, who went from being homeless to living on her own and pursuing a degree in criminal justice, and Mark Mayle, an aspiring sneaker designer who will graduate from high school this spring with a 3.7 GPA.

FCCS Kinship Caseworker Tania Johnson-Person received the Nancy Fitzgivens Award for Child Protection after 15 years of service with the agency.

The Kinship Appreciation Award was presented to Leaigha and Thomas Perkins who are caring for two nieces and two nephews. Melissa Hoyd and Leonel Tomas-Ramirez received the Family Appreciation Award after dealing with substance abuse issues, completing their case plan and being reunited with their four children.

Community Advocate Awards are given to individuals, organizations and businesses that have donated time, materials and funds to help families. This year’s awards were presented to The Proprietors American Motorcycle Association Club, New Hope Church, One Church and Dr. Julie Hoinga for their significant contributions to fulfill needs such as FCCS’s Holiday Wish Program, graduation party, school supplies and more.

Tax Time Help for Families

With spring, comes tax season and preparing taxes can be challenging for families. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service data, over 14 million Americans owed more than $131 billion in back taxes, penalties, and interest in 2018. Many don’t file because they don’t have the money to pay a tax preparer or are confused by the changing laws and tax processes, but there are resources available to help families.

Tax Time, a free tax preparation and financial resources organization, helps households with their tax preparations and financial education. Brought to you by the United Way and in partnership with H&R Block and more than 80 community organizations, Tax Time helps households with simple returns for federal and state taxes at 47 sites throughout central Ohio (currently closed due to COVID-19). Staffed by volunteers, they have prepared 14,530 tax returns, resulting in $14.8 million dollars in tax refunds and savings of more than $3.6 million to taxpayers who would have paid a tax preparer. While sites are currently closed, tax payers whose households earn up to $69,000 per year can go to www.MyFreeTaxes.com to file their simple tax returns. Tax Time also connects people to financial education and savings opportunities.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has extended the FEDERAL tax deadline to July 15th for taxpayers who OWE. If you are receiving a REFUND, the government is encouraging you to file your taxes by April 15th. Your tax questions can be answered using Interactive Tax Assistance (ITA) on the IRS website.

Make the most from your tax returns. Contact Tax Time by dialing 2-1-1 or (614) 221- 2255, once sites have reopened, to schedule an appointment for tax preparation. You can also learn how to obtain long-term financial independence and build your income with budgeting, saving, and credit resources. For more information, visit https://liveunitedcentralohio.org/agency/tax-time/.

Upcoming Events

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 – 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.

May – Foster Care Month

Nationwide, there are more than 400,000 youth currently in foster care. Currently, there are more than 300 youth in Franklin County who need loving foster homes. Visit fostercare.fccs.us to learn about becoming a foster parent in Franklin County.