June 2021 Connects E-News

FCCS Youth Pursues Success and Independence

Agency-involved youth Cierra pursues excellence.As the valedictorian of her high school class, 18-year-old Cierra has obviously accomplished a lot. But what is not obvious is the challenges she’s overcome and her drive to succeed despite obstacles. After becoming involved with Children Services and dealing with the death of her mother, Cierra is now living on her own in the Buckeye Ranch’s My Place apartments, working two jobs, maintaining straight As and saving for the future.

“She’s very responsible and independent,” says FCCS Youth Transition Services Caseworker Emily Wynn. “Cierra has done really well with staying on track with school and work, even while dealing with a loss.” She has worked hard to overcome issues she’s had with anger in the past and is self-motivated to achieve her goals.

When she is not studying or working at two fast food restaurants, Cierra is taking care of her My Place apartment and carefully managing her money. Her plan is to save for a home and she’s doing very well. According to My Place Independent Living Supervisor Ricky McElroy, “Cierra has shown that she will do OK managing money and paying bills. She has created and follows her budget and knows how to save. She’s one of the shining stars here at My Place. I’m super proud of this young lady and can’t say enough about her.”

The My Place Transitional Age Program offered through the Buckeye Ranch helps young adults to transition to independent living. FCCS refers youth ages 16 to 21 to the program, where they reside in fully furnished one-bedroom apartments, at a complex where mentors are always on hand to provide guidance and supervision.

Cierra looks forward to going to Columbus State Community College, where she plans to study cosmetology and take some business classes. “I want to own my own beauty salon,” she said. Cierra appreciates the support she’s received from the staff at My Place, as well as Children Services and is particularly grateful for the guidance of her older sister.

She wants to encourage other youth who are struggling to overcome difficulties. When asked what advice she would give them, Cierra said,” Your life is going to get better. It may be hard now, but just keep thinking positive.”

FCCS Welcomes New Board Members

Wilson BrowningKaren DaysFranklin County Children Services has a volunteer board appointed by the Franklin County Commissioners. The board provides expertise and leadership to ensure that FCCS adheres to programs and policies dedicated to achieving the organization's mission. Board members balance their professional and personal lives to commit to supporting the mission of child protection in a financially responsible manner.

FCCS recently welcomed two new board members, Karen Days and Wilson Browning. Days, currently employed at Nationwide Children's Hospital, serves as Vice President for Corporate and Community Health Relations. Her responsibilities include developing and supporting corporate wellness, prevention, and educational endeavors for the Nationwide Children's Hospital. Previously Ms. Days served as the president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing and spent over ten years working in the criminal justice field. She also served as the first president of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence.

Wilson Browning is a partner with BeecherHill, an executive search firm serving educational institutions and nonprofits. BeecherHill is headquartered in Columbus and is a multi-generational family business. Browning has served on various boards, including Junior Achievement of Central Ohio, and currently serves as president for the Short North Alliance board. He also fundraises and volunteers for Pelotonia. Browning earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Cedarville University and obtained his master's degree in financial economics from Ohio University. He and his wife, Morgan, are the parents of Eleanor (4) and Simon (2).

Franklin County Children Services looks forward to the knowledge, experience, and commitment to children and families that these new board members bring. FCCS board members also include Chair Tammy Wharton, Vice-Chair Elon Simms, Rev. Michael Bean, Tiffany Hunt, Margaret Lewis, Elizabeth Martinez, Julie McConnell, Douglas Moore, and Nicole Russell-Washington. Learn more about FCCS’s board members.

The Buckeye Ranch and Nina West Help LGBTQ+ Youth

Franklin County Children Services’ longtime partner agency The Buckeye Ranch has joined forces with famed drag queen and local celebrity Nina West (a.k.a. Andrew Levitt) to shine a light on the often-overlooked mental health needs of LGBTQ+ youth in central Ohio and beyond. “Sadly, LGBTQ+ youth in our community face rejection, homelessness, potential substance abuse, thoughts of suicide and inadequate access to mental health care,” West says, in one of the videos created as part of this educational campaign. “Mental health care is a human right and these children deserve to be affirmed for who they are.”

The central message of the campaign is “I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me,” a series of honest, heartfelt testimonials designed to spark discussion about LGBTQ+ mental health needs and break down the widespread stigma surrounding this topic. LGBTQ+ youth overall are at a higher risk of mental health issues and suicide than their peers. For LGBTQ+ youth involved in the child welfare system, these risks are even greater, according to Casey Family Programs. 

Some of the supportive messages shared in the Nina West campaign include “I wish someone would have told me that I wasn’t the only one,” “I wish someone would have told me love and acceptance should not have restrictions, limitations or contingencies,” and “I wish someone would have told me that my true people will love me no matter what.”

To learn more about this initiative, see inspirational videos, and access supportive, affirming resources for LGBTQ+ youth, educators, allies, family and caregivers, visit www.buckeyeranch.org/LGBTQ-resources.

Annual Report to the Community Available

FCCS is always there for families, whether it’s a supportive caseworker helping a mother navigate difficult times, a caring mentor empowering a youth to believe in herself or a loving couple legalizing the adoption of their foster daughter. Find these inspiring stories and more in the 2020 Report to the Community, now available.

Upcoming Events

August 15 - Children's Day at COSI
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
333 W. Broad Street

Youth and families served by Children Services will spend the day exploring science and technology at COSI. Call (614) 275-2780 for more information.