October 2020 Connects E-News

Kinship Brings Family New Addition

Baby JuanMost expectant parents have at least nine months to prepare for their new arrival. For kinship caregivers Kevin and Faness Neff, it was just a few hours. Baby Juan, now 18 months old, came into their lives quite unexpectedly. Faness remembers getting a call from a concerned family member saying that her newborn niece, Juan, was about to be taken into foster care because of safety concerns. “I said ‘No,’” she recalls. “We can’t let that happen. Someone has to do something.”

Without a second thought, Neff and her husband Kevin headed over that day to Franklin County Children Services’ intake office and made all the arrangements to become Juan’s emergency caregivers. By midnight, the Columbus couple was back home with their new baby and their lives were officially on a brand-new course.

When the baby first arrived, Faness remembers being in awe of how small Juan, who was born drug exposed and spent the first 10 days of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), was. “It was amazing holding this tiny little baby,” she says, adding that the biggest challenge at first was getting Juan to sleep since she would only do so if she was being held.

The Neffs received permanent custody of Juan this past August, which was a joyous occasion, according to Faness. She and Kevin are enjoying every moment with their beloved Munchkin, as she is more commonly known. A sweet, spirited toddler who loves to eat, Juan is a goofy, energetic girl. “Every day is an adventure,” Faness says, adding that she loves Juan’s giggle. “Her laugh is everything.”

While unexpectedly becoming parents to a newborn has been an adjustment, Faness would do it all again “in a heartbeat,” she says. “Every moment has been more than worth it. She is the absolute best.”

Learn More about FCCS’s Kinship Program

FCCS Family and Youth Honored by PCSAO

Mark MayleCiaira RicheyFor over 40 years, the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) has been advocating for children and implementing public policy for child protection programs throughout Ohio. In September, PCSAO recognized and celebrated the achievements of youth and families involved with Ohio’s public children services agencies. This year, two Franklin County Children Services youth and a family received awards.

Mark Mayle and Ciaira Richey received the PCSAO Rising Up and Moving On award. The PCSAO Family of the Year award winners were Leigha and Thomas Perkins.

The Perkins FamilyMark Mayle entered foster care at the age of 11 after experiencing a challenging background. With the support of his foster mom and the FCCS Simba Mentoring program, he worked hard and graduated from high school with a 4.1 GPA this spring. Mark is an entrepreneur with a small business designing custom sneakers and his work has been highlighted at sneaker conventions throughout the state. “Believe in yourself, want to be great for yourself, and don’t worry about what other people have to say about you” is the advice that Mark gives to other foster youth. 

Ciaira Richey entered the foster care system at a young age. She eventually became independent and moved into her own apartment with the assistance of FCCS Youth Transition Services Caseworker Kim Carter and the My Place program at the Buckeye Ranch. She is now working full time, while attending Ohio University Zanesville.

Leigha and Thomas Perkins opened their home to their nieces and nephews, after they were unable to remain safely with their parents. They welcomed the four children and gave them a loving, safe and stable home. Although the Perkins faced many challenges, the children are doing well both academically and socially. With love and dedication, the Perkins are ensuring the children have everything they need for successful lives.

Congratulations to all the PCSAO winners!

Doctor Makes Time to Mentor

(From right) Daniel Roper and his mentee DaquanDaniel Roper is busy to say the least. He works long hours as a first-year resident at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. At the same time, one of his priorities is to be there for his 17-year-old mentee, Daquan and help the youth make plans. They text often and meet regularly, even if only to grab a quick meal and talk. Roper and Daquan have been matched through FCCS’s Simba Mentoring Program since 2017. Simba pairs African-American youth with African-American males in one-on-one mentorships.

The two have built a strong relationship over the years. Roper recalls that when he first met Daquan, the teen was listening to his headphones and reluctant to answer questions. Over time, he warmed up to Roper. “I learn about what he wants to do or how he feels every time I talk to him now, which I think is pretty cool,” said Roper.

Roper feels his role as a mentor is not only to be a positive role model and friend, but also to help Daquan find the man that he wants to become. "A lot of kids in his situation only have very short-term goals—like for today or tomorrow—and there’s not really a consideration for where they’re going. I don’t want to push him into anything specific, but I want him to have his own plan. I hope hanging out with me has helped him think more about who he wants to be."

Since he loves to cook, Roper encouraged Daquan to consider a culinary career and the teen is starting a culinary program in high school. Daquan also enjoys taking things apart and putting them back together, so exploring mechanics is another possibility. Whatever Daquan chooses to do, Roper is happy to support him.

Being a mentor is one of the best things Roper said he’s done and his experience with Simba influenced his decision to specialize in pediatrics. “I feel an obligation to give kids the best chance in life,” he said. He is also a huge cheerleader for the Simba Program. “I tell everybody I know that they should get a mentee. There are so many kids who need someone to provide positivity and encouragement for them.”

Learn about the Simba Mentoring Program

FCCS Insider: Grant a Holiday Wish

   Help grant holiday wishes for children under FCCS care. We are asking for your monetary donation. For this year only, we will not accept any toy donations. Instead, we will provide gift cards to families and staff will assist caregivers in granting children’s wishes.

Through Holiday Wish, 6,500 children who may have experienced abuse, neglect or other difficult home conditions receive gifts each year. In some cases, these are the only gifts that these children will receive all year. You can help make the holidays special for them by:

  • Sending a check made payable to the Franklin County Children's Fund to 855 West Mound Street, Columbus, Ohio 43235
  • Donating online using a debit or credit card

These cash donations will be used to provide our youth under 12 with a $50 gift card, and our youth 12 and over with a $60 gift card.

Call (614) 275-2525 or visit the Holiday Wish website for more information.

Upcoming Events

November - National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month is a time to focus on the children in foster care who are waiting for a permanent family. Locally, National Adoption Day will be celebrated on November 18 with the finalization of the adoptions of several children at Franklin County Probate Court. Click here to view a searchable list of FCCS adoptable kids.