February 2021 Connects E-News

Addressing Systemic Racism and Cultural Sensitivity

   For more than 20 years, Children Services’ Multicultural Development Team (MDT) has been charged with developing cultural awareness and sensitivity among staff. Today, they are focused on discussing what’s happening in our community and nationwide, helping staff see things from different cultural perspectives, and using that insight to inform how they work with families.

According to MDT Co-Chair LaShaun Carter, “Our intent is to advance the issues of equity to expose staff to the many cultures that make up the agency and foster learning and discussion across those differences.” MDT plans to recognize Black History month, International Women’s Day, LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, issues affecting the Latinx community, Asian-American heritage month and more.

With a focus on addressing systemic racism, MDT has held 14 town hall meetings with staff since June 2020. According to MDT co-chair Asia Davis, “The purpose is education. We need to spread awareness of systemic racism and how it impacts our work.” Topics have included: racial equity and the systemic impact on the world and our work, Ohio’s Stand Your Ground Law: its impact on systemic racism and staff safety; and more. Discussions have been intense with staff sharing personal experiences, fears and ways to make things better. The hope is that they will take information back to their teams and integrate it in the work they do.

MDT also makes recommendations for the agency’s mandated annual cultural training. Past topics have included Communication in the Presence of Difference, and the Race and Equity Toolkit. Carter said, “We want to give people the resources that will help them execute their jobs with equity in mind. Historically we’ve offered a perspective of why things are important, but we want to give tangible artifacts that can be used to work differently.”

In all its facets, the work of MDT is aimed at creating better outcomes for the families FCCS serves by enabling staff to honor their cultural identities and experiences. “We’re really trying to partner with families and work for the health of our community,” said Davis.

Youth Transitional Services Offers Stability During COVID-19

An apartment at Carol Stewart Village (also known as the Franklinton Project)Children in foster care need help navigating the path to adulthood and the COVID-19 pandemic has made that transition more difficult. A study conducted by The Field Center reveals that many youth aging out of foster care between the ages of 18 and 23 are suffering from financial and food insecurity, as well as other ill effects due to the pandemic. FCCS’s Youth Transition Services Department (YTS) is working to mitigate these issues for the youth they serve by helping them develop skills and find resources for independent living.

YTS teaches life skills such as planning, budgeting, employment, and more to young adults ages 17 ½ to 21. Although the program has been forced to move from the classroom to a virtual format, there has been an increase in the number of youths taking classes. According to YTS Supervisor Donta’ Greene, “Despite COVID, YTS workers continue to strive to ensure youth gain independence and stability.”

YTS partners with community programs to help youth, including the Bridges employment program and federal housing grants. This year, three new resources are available. Achieve More and Prosper (AMP) is a partnership program with IMPACT Community Action that has provided job training and placement to youth involved with FCCS for several years. New this year, they are offering free, in-person tutoring services for youth ages 16 to 24. Additional housing assistance is available from Carol Stewart Village and Columbus Scholar House 3. Both offer services to youth ages 18 to 24. FCCS is also seeking host homes for youth who are transitioning out of foster care.

YTS is there for youth during tough times. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created circumstances where our young adults are struggling to complete online education, find employment and develop a plan for their independence. YTS is dedicated to linking them with supports that help them transition to adulthood,” said Cassie Snyder, YTS associate director.

For more information on these programs or if you're interested in providing a host home for youth transitioning to adulthood, contact YTS at (614) 278-5972.

Kinship Families Find Housing Thanks to Partnership

Richard Jones and family with FCCS's Sid Daniels (Right) at the Jones' new homeThere’s no place like home. This is especially true for 25 Columbus kinship families who recently had the opportunity to move into freshly renovated, spacious housing units thanks to a voucher partnership between Franklin County Children Services and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA). For dad Richard Jones and his four kids, move-in day at their new place was a joyous occasion. “Everyone was screaming and yelling, they were so happy,” he remembers. “It was definitely a good day for us.”

Like so many families right now, Jones needed affordable, safe housing that also comfortably accommodated his growing family. Jones is busy raising his two biological children as well as two children of a relative he stepped up to care for. The two children, one of whom he has always essentially been a father to, were about to go into foster care and “I said ‘No, we can’t do that,’” he recalls of that life-changing moment. This devoted dad relocated from Marion, Ohio to give his family a brighter future by taking advantage of this unique housing opportunity.

Jones’ roomy three-bedroom, two-bathroom CMHA unit allows his sons Dhevon, 8, and Damario, 4, to have their own room and his daughters Delilah, 9, and Davenneh, 5, to have theirs. Their school is right around the corner and childcare is convenient. Jones says he is grateful to be there, settling into a new life as a family of five. “It’s like home now.”

According to Franklin County Children Services Kinship Associate Director Sid Daniels, this FCCS-CMHA partnership has been a huge success. The 25 CMHA housing units filled quickly when they first became available in fall 2020. This was no surprise to Daniels, who says that securing affordable, appropriate housing can be a significant barrier for kinship families. These families tend to be larger, raising multiple children, often with extremely limited resources. “The need was there,” Daniels says. “Things are hard and people are struggling.”

After 12 months, the CMHA kinship vouchers become permanent, which means these 25 kinship families will always have access to affordable housing, no small feat in today’s economy. “These families now have a stable place to stay,” Daniels says.

Learn more about how FCCS helps kinship families. 

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.