September 2021 Connects E-News

Kinship Makes Family

Jennifer Montgomery and FamilySeptember is Kinship Month. Franklin County Children Services would like to thank grandparents, aunts, uncles, other relatives and family friends who provide consistency and love for a child by caring for them during a disruptive time. Kinship caregivers are people who provide children with a stable and loving home, during the absence of their parents. They create a sense of belonging, while keeping the children connected to their culture and each other. Many kinship families are not blood relatives, but the bond and sense of familiarity they create makes them family. Jennifer Montgomery is a kinship caregiver who opened her home and heart to three little girls who needed her.

Prior to taking temporary custody of Piper, now age 6 and Aaliah, age 5, Montgomery had not met the sisters. She knew their father and agreed to take them based on her relationship with him. Despite the financial challenges, Montgomery committed to providing a loving home for the girls. She partnered with the FCCS Kinship department to ensure the girls were up to date on medical appointments and enrolled in daycare and preschool. She also facilitated regular contact between the children and their biological mom and dad. 

When the biological mom gave birth to the girls’ sister, Lydia, Montgomery agreed to take the baby into her home and keep the sisters together. Adding a newborn during a pandemic is difficult for anyone, let alone a single working mom. But the girls have been excellent little helpers in caring for baby Lydia, who is growing and meeting all of her developmental milestones under Montgomery’s care.

According to their caseworker, the day before Jennifer was to obtain legal custody, Piper was asked what happens when they go to court, and she replied, "that's where we get to be Jenny's babies forever."

Learn more about the FCCS Kinship program by contacting (614) 341-6161 or kinship@fccs.us.

Caseworker Seeks to Build Bridges

Caseworker Farhiya AbdiFor caseworker Farhiya Abdi, rewards come when she encounters a family that doesn’t know how to solve issues and she helps them navigate through their problems and find resolutions. Her desire to help families extends to wanting to build a bridge between the large Somali community in Columbus and Children Services. Born in Kenya to parents who fled Somalia in the early nineties, Abdi came to the U.S. at age 3, graduated from Ohio State University and has worked with FCCS both as an ongoing caseworker and an intake screener.

While Abdi has worked with families from different backgrounds, she feels particularly helpful when she interacts with Somali families and lets them know that FCCS is there to help. According to Abdi, there are a lot of negative feelings about child welfare in the Somali community. Families often believe that when FCCS gets involved in their lives, the agency wants to take their children away and cleanse them of their culture, religion and identity. Abdi feels she’s been able to alleviate their fears and remove barriers by understanding their cultural perspective. “When I’ve worked with Somali families, I’ve been able to dispel the idea that we are out to get them and let them see that we’re there to help and provide resources. I can explain the case plan and help them to follow through on it. Once we start working together, they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses and ask for help.”

The close-knit Somali community tends to work together under the guidance of elders to address issues concerning youth and families, rather than seek outside help. And so, families are hesitant to accept the intervention of outsiders. Abdi says it’s helpful for caseworkers to understand the concerns that the community has. Trying to address them with families can improve relationships and interactions, and result in better outcomes. 

Abdi wants to be part of creating a positive relationship with FCCS and the Somali community. She is participating in the agency’s Speakers Bureau through which staff give presentations and attend events in the community to share resources and help people view the agency as a source of help. Abdi looks forward to helping FCCS be seen as a community resource.

Learn more about FCCS’s Speaker’s Bureau and request a speaker for your organization’s event.

Tips for Keeping Babies Safe

  September is also Infant Mortality Awareness Month and safe sleep practices are a huge part of keeping babies healthy and safe. Tragically, here in Franklin County, 22 babies die every year due to unsafe sleep practices. To ensure the well-being of the little ones you love, here’s a quick safe sleep review.

Safe sleep is all about the ABCs: Babies are always safest Alone, on their Backs, in an empty Crib. Following these simple guidelines could mean the difference between life and death, as babies often die under thoroughly preventable circumstances.

Alone: Babies should always be alone whenever it’s time for bed. An infant should never sleep with an adult on a couch, chair or bed where they are at serious risk of injury or suffocation. The statistics are grim. Two out of three Ohio babies who died while sleeping were sharing an adult bed, couch or chair. Feel free to share your bedroom with your baby, but never your bed.

Back: To avoid risk of suffocation due to rebreathing carbon dioxide, babies should always be put to sleep on their backs. Infants are actually less likely to choke in this position than if they’re on their bellies or sides. Remember: back to sleep, tummy to play.

Crib: Babies need a designated, separate space for sleeping. Make sure the crib is clear. A safe one is always 100% empty. Despite what we’ve all likely seen in stores or on TV, a crib is never the place for stuffed toys, pillows, blankets or bumper pads. While these things are cute, they are also dangerous and could potentially suffocate an infant. Use a firm, safety-approved crib mattress with a tightly fitted sheet. And while the temperatures might be dropping soon, never over-bundle a sleeping infant. Remember that if you're comfortable, the baby will be, too.

For more infant safe sleep tips and local resources for parents and caregivers of babies, visit Celebrate One.

Keep Kids Safe: Lock up Guns

Recently, caseworkers and local law enforcement agencies have noted a dramatic increase in the number of accidental shootings that have wounded or killed small children. In that vein, FCCS wanted to remind responsible gun owners to follow some basic safety guidelines.

Don't become a news headline. The life you save may be your child's.

Follow these tips from Safe Kids Worldwide:

  • Keep guns out of the reach and out of sight of children by storing them securely. Do not leave guns unsecured on a nightstand, table, or other place where a child can gain access to them.
  • Store guns unloaded and secured with effective, child-resistant gun locks in a locked container out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store ammunition in a separate locked container out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Use combination locks and safes, or safes that use fingerprint recognition locks. Keep the combinations carefully hidden.
  • When a gun is not being stored, keep it in your immediate possession and control at all times.
  • If you carry a gun in your car, make sure to outfit your vehicle with a lockable container, so you can securely store the gun when you exit the vehicle.
  • If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag or an unlocked car, provide them with a place to store it securely (locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition) while they are in your home.
  • If a family member or loved one is in crisis and may be a risk to themselves or others, consider temporarily removing firearms from your home. Such crises can involve people who are depressed, suicidal, or abusing drugs or alcohol.

In partnership with the Columbus Division of Fire, The City of Columbus is offering free gun locks to Columbus residents. To pick up a free gun lock, visit any Columbus fire station between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Learn more.

Upcoming Events

September 18 - UNCF Virtual Walk for Education

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 the UNCF website or call (614) 221-5309.