May 2022 Connects E-News

Foster Parents Find Unexpected Calling

Nathan and Traci Wurschmidt got into foster care because they wanted to advocate for kids and hopefully adopt someday. What this Galloway couple didn’t know is they would end up mending families in the process. Nathan and Traci Wurschmidt, Foster Parents and Parent Mentors Four years into fostering for the Buckeye Ranch, the Wurschmidts have unexpectedly found their calling as parent mentors. “The relationships that we have built with these bio families have become so dear to our hearts,” says Traci.

The Wurschmidts, who also have three biological children, first fostered a three-day-old baby boy who was born drug positive. Traci reached out and became a support to the baby’s mom, who had struggled with mental health issues and homelessness. “We struck up this sisterhood,” Traci recalls. “She allowed me into her heart and we have built an unbreakable bond.”

The Wurschmidts’ second placement, a newborn baby girl also born drug positive, was another success story, although not at first. “In the beginning, I thought ‘I don’t know if she’s ever going to make it back home,’” Traci recalls, adding that she was nervous at first to get involved in the lives of their foster daughter’s parents who both struggled with long-term addiction issues.

A few years later, not only are the baby girl’s parents sober, stable and doing well, thanks in large part to Traci and Nathan’s unwavering support and unconditional love, they have become dear friends and a permanent part of the Wurschmidt’s extended family. “Through all of this, [bio mom] has literally become my best friend,” Traci says. “We are so proud of them and how far they have come.”

The Wurschmidts have wisdom for those thinking about becoming foster parents. “If you decide to do this, it’s going to be life changing,” Nathan says. “You have to make sure you go into it with an open mind and an open heart. And be ready not to judge people. You have to go into it with the right perspective if you want to have a good experience.”

“It’s got to be in you,” Traci adds. “I don’t think just anyone can do it.” She notes that fostering has brought its share of challenges, frustration and heartache. “It’s not all butterflies and rainbows,” Traci says. “It’s hard, it’s taxing, it’s nerve-wracking at times. But the reward on the other side of it can be so beautiful: to be part of changing the trajectory of not just the kids’ lives, but the entire family.”

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, call (614) 275-2711 or visit fostercare.fccs.us.

Mental Health Awareness: Teen Suicide Prevention

Most would agree, being a teenager comes with its standard set of challenges. It is that unique stage in our lives when we transition from being a child who needs and craves the attention of our parent or caregiver to Teens often struggle with mental health issues.an adolescent who wants nothing more than the freedom of independence, not to mention, all the other changes occurring during this phase. On top of that, add the stress of family, friends, school, work and more. Managing these stresses as an adult can feel overwhelming. Imagine being a teenager and trying to navigate them.

It is easy to see the physical changes teenagers experience, but it requires more deliberate attention to see the other changes which aren’t so visible. As parents and caregivers, it is important we learn the difference between typical teenage behavior and teen behavior that is cause for concern. It could mean the difference between life or death.

Among youth ages 10 to 19, suicide is the second leading cause of death nationwide. In Franklin County, 15% of all deaths among youth ages 8 to 17 from 2008 through 2017 were due to suicide and that number continues to increase. Being aware of potential warning signs is one way parents, caregivers, and the community can help our teens work through the challenges they face that can cause them to feel suicidal.

Being a teenager is tough. They may look like adults, but they are not. They need support, encouragement, and understanding from adults in their lives. It is our collective responsibility to provide the care teens require to navigate this time and recognize when they are in distress. To learn more about what you need to know about youth suicide and other helpful resources, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) website. For parenting tips, visit our website.

Statistical information came from the Columbus Public Health Department’s Franklin County Child Fatality Review Report: Youth Suicides.

Caseworker Tackles Tough Situations with Care

With the help of her favorite coworker, a dog named Nova, Carrie Miller faces each day with enthusiasm and purpose, as she works as a caseworker in FCCS's Medically Involved Serious Harm Unit (MISH) unit which Carrie Miller, 2022 Nancy Fitzgivens Child Protection Award Winneris based at The Center for Family Safety and Healing. In her role, Miller handles some of the toughest situations that a caseworker can encounter: cases that concern serious injuries, child fatalities and near fatalities, educational neglect, and other medically complex cases. For her expertise in this area and dedication to keeping children safe, while giving families the support they need, Miller received the agency’s 2022 Nancy Fitzgivens Child Protection Award.

Miller began working with the agency in 2018 and has become known as a “go-to” person, because of her knowledge about dealing with MISH cases. “Carrie will often extend her support and expertise to her peers within her unit and those outside of the unit who have been assigned MISH cases,” said Intake Supervisor Ashlee Pfile. Miller also coaches students who are part of the Ohio State University Partnership Program. According to Pfile, after students accompany her on visits with families or have other interactions, Miller takes time to make sure they understand what occurred.  Pfile also said, “Carrie is excellent at modeling behaviors of what is expected of a child welfare caseworker.”

The nature of her work makes it necessary for Miller to build strong relationships with community partners including the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and members of law enforcement to meet their common goal of keeping kids safe. But her strongest tool is Miller’s ability to meet families where they are and let them know she wants to help. “I make it very clear that I’m here to work with them and will do my best to benefit them, no matter what the situations is. It gives me clarity into what they’re going through and makes the families more responsive when they know you’re there to help,” she said.

FCCS Insider: College Care Packages

FCCS staff and volunteers met on May 5 to fill college care packages for youth involved with the agency pursuing post-secondary education and those working and in need of additional support. The Volunteer Department coordinated the campaign by requesting donations for household items and snacks including:

  •  Microwave popcornHelp support agency youth with care packages.
  •  Gum/mints
  •  Pretzels
  •  Cheese crackers/peanut butter crackers
  •  Ramen noodles
  •  Powdered drink mix
  •  Granola bars
  •  Shampoo
  •  Soap bars
  •  Toothbrushes/toothpaste 
  •  Deodorant
  •  Tissues
  •  Notebook paper
  •  Pens/pencils/highlighters
  •  Flash drives
  •  Laundry detergent
  •  Laundry bags
  •  Flip-flops
  •  Clock radios
  •  New sheets/towels

Anyone interested in donating can contact College Bound Mentoring Coordinator Chuck Cochran at (614 )275-2598 or e-mail fccsvolunteers@fccs.us. This is a great opportunity for a local faith-based group, community organization, or business to give back. The package delivery and donation drive are held twice a year – spring and fall.  

“We began this wonderful support for our children and families nine years ago as a way to demonstrate we are thinking of them and to show support and encouragement to them,” Cochran said. “Since that time numerous young people who are pursing post-secondary education or working and need additional support have received a care package.”

Upcoming Events

May – Foster Care Month

National Foster Care Month is the time to recognize the hundreds of thousands of children who need temporary loving homes. To learn about becoming a foster parent in Franklin County visit fostercare.fccs.us or call 614-275-2711.

May – Mental Health Awareness Month

National Mental Health Awareness month is a time to raise awareness about those living with mental health challenges and to help reduce the stigma many experience because of it.