May 2020 Connects E-News

COVID-19 Creates Increased Need for Foster Homes

May is National Foster Care Month and a time to highlight the continued need for foster homes in Franklin County. In an interview with NBC4, Tonya Shats, a caseworker with National Youth Advocate Program (a partner foster care agency) stated, “We are definitely in critical need of foster homes. Amidst the drug crisis, the foster care system is now being impacted by social distancing.” The pandemic coupled with the existing opioid crisis continues to put children further at risk. The pressures that accompany social distancing, school closures, and economic challenges brought on by the pandemic are likely to adversely affect families and increase instances of abuse and neglect; thus, increasing the need for loving and caring foster homes.

Franklin County currently has hundreds of children waiting for loving foster homes. These children need caring adults to provide loving, safe, and stable environments for them. There are two ways you can foster children: ongoing care and respite care. During ongoing foster care, a child will stay in the foster parents’ home until they are reunified with family, age out of foster care or are placed with adoptive families. Respite care is a short-term placement of foster children offered to caregivers when they have emergency situations or need a break. Caregivers are needed to help in the best way that suits them and their families.

Requirements for Becoming a Foster Parent:

  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Consent to a criminal background check
  • Employed or have a steady income
  • May be single, married, or divorced
  • May own or rent a home
  • Home must meet the standards of licensing requirements
  • Must participate in a home study

Open your heart and home to a child who needs a loving family. Call (614) 275-2711 to receive a foster care informational package or visit http://fostercare.fccs.us/ for a list of foster agencies that provide services to Franklin County Children Services’ youth.

Foster Hope, Foster Love, Foster Franklin County

Caseworker Serves Families During Pandemic

Tania Person-JohnsonTania Person-Johnson just returned from visiting the home of a prospective kinship caregiver. Dressed in a face mask and gloves, she walked through the home to ensure that it was equipped with everything necessary for a child to be placed there. This is normal for Person-Johnson during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though she works from home as much as possible, making calls and writing home studies, she still needs to venture out into the community to ensure children can live in safe and familiar homes.

Person-Johnson, who was recognized as the 2020 Nancy Fitzgivens Child Protection Award recipient, has been with Children Services for more than fifteen years. She has worked as a caseworker in the kinship department from its beginning. The kinship program was created when the agency found that children placed in out-of-home care do better in homes with family members or others with whom they have close ties. Kinship caseworkers identify and support caregivers.

Person-Johnson also links families with other services like counseling, utility assistance, ongoing financial support and more. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her work has become more difficult. “My biggest concern is being able to give them the assistance they need in a timely fashion,” she said. “Numerous people are trying to get services from community partners right now and when you finally get through, families can be waitlisted.”

Working with kinship families is fulfilling for Person-Johnson. “Any time we can maintain kids in a familiar home, I feel good about the work that I’m doing,” she said. When families have special needs, she is quick to seek out resources. Recently, she rushed out to bring a gift card for groceries to caregivers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

Person-Johnson feels the community can help the families that she works with, as well as others who are struggling during the pandemic by just buying what they need and freeing up resources. “I have families who are struggling to find baby formula right now,” she said. “Donating to food pantries would be really good too. That’s a big help.”

Click here to learn about donating to the Mid-Ohio Food Collective.

Volunteer Helps at Crisis Center

Christy ChouWhen Christy Chou hits the door, she doesn’t know whether she will be cleaning or hugging a distressed child, sometimes dropped off by police and often hungry and scared. The 23-year-old Franklin County Children Services Crisis Center volunteer says that’s just how she likes it. “I work behind a computer during the day and I felt like I wasn’t helping anyone, so I just Googled ‘volunteer opportunities’ and the Franklin County Children Services job was appealing to me,” Chou said. During the day, she works as an internal auditor for Cardinal Health. Chou has worked at least one shift per week for one year at FCCS’s intake office for children ages 0 to 12 in Whitehall.

“Volunteering with the kids is awesome and they are so sweet,” she said. “I get to hang out with the kids and get them food or clothes so I can take their minds off why they are in this situation,” Chou said. Sometimes she cleans and organizes the play room so that the next volunteer is fully stocked. Other days, she is the only volunteer to work with five or six children at a time. A Children Services staff member is always there to assist the volunteers.

The crisis center is located at the agency’s intake, assessment and investigations department at 4071 East Main Street. Volunteers clean and sanitize toys, stock shelves and provide child care and other assistance as directed by appointed staff. They provide much needed support, interaction and supervision for children when they are brought to intake. In addition, they work to ensure that children who come to the crisis center experience a safe, secure and positive environment where their needs are met.

Currently, volunteer shifts at the crisis center have been suspended due to COVID-19. The agency looks forward to seeing volunteers at the center again in the future. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, click here to submit an inquiry form or call (614) 275-2690. Click here to learn more about volunteering at mentoring opportunities at FCCS.

Tips for Today: Encouraging Safe Interactions Between Kids and Dogs

They are man’s (and woman‘s) best friend for sure, but dogs aren’t always the perfect companions for children. According to the experts at Best Friends Animal Society, here are some tips to ensure a positive experience when your little ones are around dogs, whether it’s your own pet or a neighbor’s pooch.

  • Always ask an owner‘s permission before approaching or petting a dog. Not all dogs are friendly, predictable or used to interacting with children.

  • Always be kind and respectful. This means not surprising dogs when they are eating, playing with a toy or sleeping. They can instinctively become territorial or defensive if they feel threatened.
  • Avoid making loud or sudden noises or movements around dogs. And never tug on their tails or ears. Remember that anything that scares or irritates you will likely bother a dog.
  • Always pet a dog gently and on his terms. Dogs use body language just like humans do. A dog will let you know if he is relaxed and happy or stressed and anxious.
  • Always supervise small children around dogs since accidents can unfortunately happen.

Click here for more information about dog safety from bestfriends.org.

In need of your own furry friend? Visit dogs.franklincountyohio.gov to check out local pups in need of homes.