September 2020 Connects E-News

Confronting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a significant threat to youth in Franklin County and those served by FCCS are particularly vulnerable to traffickers. Children Services staff work with law enforcement and community partners to identify cases in which youth are victims, prosecute offenders and help youth recover.

Research conducted by the Polaris Project revealed that human trafficking effects children in two ways: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Types of child sex trafficking include pimp-controlled prostitution and stripping, escort services, truck stops, and residential brothels. Child labor often takes the following forms: agricultural work, domestic servitude, work in restaurants/drinking establishments, traveling sales crews and peddling/begging rings.

According to SAFY, a child welfare agency, people who engage in human trafficking easily prey on youth who have experienced the trauma of abuse and neglect. These youth may have emancipated from foster care, are homeless (especially LGBTQ+ youth), or have run away from home and suffer from feelings of depression and hopelessness. Victims of both sexual and human trafficking find it difficult to escape because of threats of criminal prosecution, emotional control by abusers, immigration status, familial pressures, isolation and limited social services.

FCCS has investigated an average of 49 cases each year over the past five years in which human trafficking was alleged. Children Services caseworkers are trained to recognize behaviors that may indicate trafficking, such as youth engaging in high risk behaviors or having money without having a job. Identifying and addressing trafficking requires the cooperation of multiple agencies. “Sometimes we get information directly from law enforcement or hospitals,” said Cheyenne Severence, FCCS community referrals and coordination supervisor. “When it's indicated, we work with law enforcement, particularly the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, and victims find support through services provided by agencies such as Gracehaven and the Mt. Carmel Crime and Trauma Assistance Program."

For more information on human trafficking, visit the polarisproject.org or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-788 or text “BeFree” to 233733.

$1.5 Million in Financial Support Available for Kinship Families

Great news for local kinship families: $1.5 million in grant money is now available through Ohio’s Kinship Caregiver Program. Just in time for Kinship Appreciation Month this September, all Franklin County kinship families past and present are eligible to apply. To qualify, families must have legal custody of a child 18 and under (or a kinship placement of a minor with FCCS holding legal custody). Reimbursement up to $1,500 per child is possible.

This grant will likely be welcome financial assistance for Franklin County’s hundreds of kinship families, especially those caring for multiple children on a tight budget, according to Sid Daniels, associate director of Franklin County Children Services’ kinship department. Daniels knows firsthand what support like this can mean to a kinship family—he and his brother were raised by their grandparents with plenty of love but with limited resources. Back then, grants such as this didn’t exist, he said.

This is the third year in a row FCCS has received this grant and Daniels anticipates a robust response. Interested in applying? Act now and equally important, ensure all documentation is in proper order, he advises. The grant is available September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 or until funds run out.

For more information and for specific application instructions including necessary documentation, please call your Kinship caseworker directly or contact FCCS’s Kinship hotline at (614) 341-6161. Please note: due to FCCS COVID-19 safety protocols, there will be no in-person application processing as before.

Learn more about FCCS's Kinship Program.

Responding to COVID-19 by #savingGRACE

   Guidance, Recognition, Appreciation, Connection and Enrichment are the five priorities of Franklin County Children Services #savingGRACE campaign which is part of the agency’s Culture of Safety work. The campaign was implemented this past April in response to the impact COVID-19 was having on employees, their workload, families and lives. “When you can’t control what is happening, it’s important to challenge yourself to control the way you respond. That’s where the power lies,” says Kelly Knight, director of strategy and creator of the FCCS #savingGRACE campaign. Giving ourselves grace, both literally and figuratively, is a way for the agency to navigate through the uncharted territory of COVID-19.

Guidance involves providing tools and resources to support employees and their families around physical and psychological safety. Providing Recognition highlights the different lived experiences of others and emphasizes the intersection of COVID-19 and equity, diversity and inclusion. “While we are all experiencing the COVID-19 crisis together, none of our experiences will be the same,” says Knight. Appreciation focuses on finding ways to give thanks and spotlight moments of joy and hope during challenging times. Connection aims to bring employees together despite their distance and differences. Offering professional Enrichment opportunities to enhance personal and professional growth gives employees purpose and a valuable sense of normalcy.

We are a strong organization and learning as we go has become our new normal. According to FCCS Executive Director Chip Spinning, “Our hope is that #savingGRACE will help us turn a disruptive event like COVID-19 into a transformational opportunity.” There is no better time than now to try to be different than before.

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return my friends. We are given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”  

— Sonya Renee Taylor

FCCS Insider

FCCS Staff Members Donta Greene (left) and Tom Bowser deliver backpacks to youth. Starting School Right with New Backpacks

FCCS staff members Donta Green and Tom Bowser helped distribute 486 donated backpacks to agency regional offices last month to help youth in our care have a better start to the school year. The backpacks were received thanks to longtime FCCS donor The Tom Fennessy/Mike Harden Back-to-School Project. This year, more than 11,000 backpacks were provided with basic supplies for students from low-income families, in central Ohio grades K through 12. This was achieved with the help of 50 social service agencies, churches and schools who help disseminate the backpacks. It was also thanks to the generosity of numerous loyal contributors, and the work of volunteer staff. 

COSI Connects with Agency Youth

Thanks to a public-private partnership between the Franklin County Commissioners and COSI, Franklin County Children Services will receive up to 75 free educational kits for agency youth every week through November. COSI Connects KitsThe activity boxes are rooted in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and will encourage students to investigate the sciences on the COSI Connects webpage. A donation of $250,000 by the commissioners will support the work as part of ongoing county efforts to serve underserved areas of the county during the worldwide pandemic. These kits will augment children’s education and provide them with interesting science projects.

 

Upcoming Events

September - Kinship Care Month

September is a time to recognize the family members and friends who take on the care of youth served by child welfare agencies, who can no longer remain in their own homes. Kinship care providers offer familiar loving homes to youth in need.

September 19 - UNCF Virtual Walk for Education

1 p.m.

FCCS will sponsor a team participating in this virtual event which raises funds for college scholarships including the FCCS Alvin R. Hadley Scholarship. This scholarship is presented to an agency youth each year. The event will be celebrated online. For more information, visit https://uncf.org/event/2020-virtual-walk-for-education-Columbus. or call (614) 221-5309.