September 2022 Connects E-News

Kinship Caregiver Elizabeth Welin

Life took an unexpected turn for Elizabeth Welin when her nephew Jonah was born and his parents were unable to care for him. This amazing aunt, along with her parents Peter and Jane, immediately stepped in to ensure thatKinship Caregiver Elizabeth Welin Jonah had extended family ready to meet his every need the moment he was discharged from the hospital. Given Jonah’s parents’ longstanding history of substance abuse and mental health issues, “we knew it was going to be a complicated situation,” Elizabeth says.

When they initially found out Jonah’s parents were expecting, Elizabeth and her parents proactively contacted Franklin County Children Services and the hospital to let everyone know that “we’re here and ready to help if needed,” Welin says. “We were totally looking out for Jonah’s best interests.”

Kinship families like the Welin family are often grandparents, aunts, uncles or close family friends who provide children with a stable, loving home when their parents are unable to do so. On either a temporary or permanent basis, kinship caregivers offer much needed consistency and support during a challenging time in a child’s life. By placing a child in a more familiar environment, kinship care creates a critical sense of belonging and allows a child to maintain vital connections to family, culture and community.

Welin, who lives in Cincinnati and works in the clinical research field, is currently Jonah’s full-time caregiver. “Watching him grow, develop and thrive” has been the best part of caring for her 14-month-old nephew, Welin says. Jonah is a chatty, happy guy who loves to eat, just took his first steps and adores his golden retriever sister Izzy. His first words were the dog’s name, Welin says.

While life with Jonah is a joy, the overall situation can be bittersweet since her brother, Jonah’s father, is unable to be involved in his son’s life at the moment. “It’s hard,” Welin says. “You want to do what you can to help them.”

To learn more about how kinship care helps children like Jonah in times of crisis, click here

Caseworker Finds Calling Helping Families

“I love my job. Being a part of a family’s life and making a difference means a lot to me,” said Sharon Steele, an ongoing caseworker at FCCS’s west region. She feels that working in child welfare is her calling and the hard work ofCaseworker Sharon Steele being a caseworker is worthwhile because of the joy of being able to lead children and families through difficult circumstances.

An extremely dedicated professional, Steele spends her days working with families who have ongoing cases, responding to emails, processing paperwork, making visits, attending court cases and much more. But her work doesn’t end there. After her normal work hours, Steele often volunteers to work intake and investigations cases which require more family visits to assess homes, offer resources and plan for children’s safety. “I volunteer for these cases because it helps me understand the intake and investigations process,” Steele said. 

With a background in early child development, Steele came to FCCS because she wanted to help children in need. She recalls working in early childhood centers and encountering situations in which Children Services intervention was needed. Steele wanted to be part of finding long term solutions for these children and their families. “It became such a concern for me that when the opportunity [to work with the agency] came, I jumped on it because I wanted to make a difference,” she said.

Steele feels building relationships and establishing trust with families is key to being a good ongoing caseworker. She recalls a case in which a single father physically abused his teen daughter, and they were separated. Eventually, the father learned how to parent and the two were reunited. Now the teen, who struggled in school, is pursuing a college education and remains close with Steele. “Her dad told me that I was going to be a part of their family for the rest of her life and I’m OK with that,” she said.

According to Steele, the job of an ongoing caseworker is a great responsibility. “It requires patience, dedication, flexibility and a willingness to work with families for an extended time,” she said. “Once you step into these children’s lives, they rely on you to see them through their situations for as long as it takes. Children need consistency and continuity. When deciding if you want to be a caseworker, you need to think about that responsibility.”

Community Partner: Ohio Hispanic Coaliation

The Ohio Hispanic Coalition (OHCO) was founded in 1990 to help the Latino/Hispanic community in Ohio access culturally-appropriate health services. It has since expanded and now offers additional programs to helpOhio Hispanic Coalition provides culturally and linguistically appropriate services and programs to the Latino/Hispanic community in Ohio. this community navigate the many barriers they continue to face. Some of the barriers include language, culture, immigration status, and lack of access to appropriate services and programs. OHCO Executive Director Josué Vicente says, “Ohio Hispanic Coalition upholds our motto of ‘Latinos serving Latinos.’ All of our staff are bilingual and bicultural with knowledge of both Latino and United States culture to bridge the current gaps in services." To address those gaps "approaches are culturally-fitting and linguistically-appropriate to provide truly quality services that are reflective of the Latino communities we serve,” says Vicente. Below is a list of programs currently offered through OHCO.

  • Promotoras de Salud – Provides bilingual/bicultural community health workers to assist healthcare professionals with Latino/Hispanic patients, so those patients receive quality care and access to appropriate resources
  • Interpretation and Translation Services – Provides professionally trained interpreters for over 20 languages
  • Niños en Acción – Provides after-school program and summer enrichment camps for children
  • Soy Latina Victim Services – Provides services to Latina victims of domestic violence

For more information about OHCO and the programs and services that are available to the Latino/Hispanic communities, please visit www.ohiohispaniccoalition.org.

FCCS Insider: Agency Youth Equipped for the School Year

Thanks to the generosity of one non-profit group, agency involved youth are starting the school year off equipped with the supplies they need. The Tom Fennessey/Mike The Tom Fennessey-Mike Harden Project donated backpacks to youth served by FCCS.Harden project donated more than 460 backpacks filled with supplies to Children Services to be distributed to youth. This is the eighth year that the non-profit has made a generous donation to the agency. Thanks to their generosity, kids will be able to focus on learning with tools in hand to aid their development. 

The Tom Fennessey/Mike Harden Back-to-School Project, which was named in honor of two Columbus Dispatch columnists, was initially created to provide school supplies to children living in homeless shelters. A large group of volunteers collect and stuff the backpacks each year and donate them to area charity drives and organizations that benefit the homeless. According to their website, over the past 24 years, the volunteers have distributed more than 171,000 backpacks to students.

To learn more about the Tom Fennessy/Mike Harden Back-to-School Project visit tomfennessy.org.  

Upcoming Events

September - Kinship Care Month
September is a time to recognize the family members and friends who take on the care of youth served by child welfare agencies, who can no longer remain in their own homes. Kinship care providers offer familiar loving homes to youth in need.

September 15 - October 15 - National Hispanic American Heritage Month
During this time, we celebrate the cultures, contributions, and histories of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. 

September 17 - UNCF Walk for Education
The Annual UNCF Walk for Education will be held Saturday, September 17th at McFerson Commons #1 located at 218 West Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215. Visit UNCF.org/ColumbusWalk for more information.